Is Indiana overbedded? Latest $50M hospital fuels debate

A $50 million hospital scheduled to open next month in Brownsburg, Ind., is raising concern over healthcare demand throughout the county, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The $50 million, 100,000-square foot Hendricks Regional Health Brownsburg facility is the newest hospital in Hendricks County, Ind., the second-fastest-growing county in the state.

Hendricks County has seen a number of other hospital projects, which includes the addition of several neighborhood hospitals. These smaller hospitals house an emergency room, pharmacy, imaging center and seven overnight beds. Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Health is planning to open three neighborhood hospitals in Hendricks County, along with five others outside the county. Each hospital will cost approximately $10 million to build.

But neighborhood hospitals aren't the only new players in the area. Last month, Indiana University Health announced plans to add 48 beds and another floor to a patient tower at its West Hospital in Avon, Ind., which is estimated to cost $83 million.

"All these hospitals are looking at a really attractive market, with a growing population and strong commercial payer base, and they're growing to try to meet those needs," said Elizabeth Walker, an Indianapolis healthcare consultant at Miami-based BDC Advisors.

However, the expansion is adding hospital beds into an area that already sees a high number of unused beds, as payers demand lower-cost settings, such as urgent care facilities and outpatient surgery centers, according to the IBJ.

"All of us in the healthcare industry worry a bit about how we are already over-bedded in Indiana," Ms. Walker said. "Adding more beds to the equation…could potentially drive up costs."

Hospital officials say they have little choice but to expand in Hendricks County. Last year, Indiana University Health West had to transfer more than 1,700 patients because it did not have enough beds available.

"Demand for our services in response to this growth is high, so we need to expand to meet that demand," Ryan Kitchell, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Indianapolis-based IU Health, told IBJ.

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