Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

Hospital plans office near bank

LMH to recruit doctor for Tonganoxie move

June 6, 2001

Lawrence Memorial Hospital hopes to open a medical office within a year in Tonganoxie.

The hospital, which is owned by the city of Lawrence, plans to lease a building in a subdivision being developed by First State Bank and Trust.

For more than 15 months, hospital officials have been contemplating a move to Tonganoxie. Now, it appears plans have solidified.

"We would like to work with a local developer to own the building and build it, and we would lease it from them," said Gene Meyer, chief executive officer. "We would recruit a physician to go up there."

The site the hospital has zeroed in on is just west of First State Bank's branch along U.S. Highway 24-40.

Chris Donnelly of the bank said that officials there are working to put together an investment group to build and own the building.

The bank cannot own the building because any real estate it owns must center on banking or bank-related purposes.

"I think we'll try to iron out what their needs are, and we're pretty confident the lot we have will work for them," Donnelly said. "We have to decide how we go out and find a group that's interested in doing this."

Meyer said the building likely would contain about 2,500 square feet. If another health-care provider, such as a dentist or pharmacist, would team up with the hospital, a larger structure would be constructed.

"Our preference would be to partner with someone for a variety of reasons economies of scale, access to health care, visibility," Meyer said.

Tonganoxie has attracted the hospital's attention primarily because of the city's growth.

"We have a number of employees who live in and around Tonganoxie," Meyer said. "We had a breakfast meeting with employees and got input about whether it would be wise to open an office in Tonganoxie."

Overwhelmingly, Meyer said, the answer was yes.

He said he believes the Tonganoxie area is medically underserved. The city has two physicians Dr. Deborah Gammill, who is associated with Providence Medical Center, and Dr. Philip Stevens, who currently is not affiliated with any hospital.

"We believe easily the community can support the addition of one and, eventually, two full-time physicians," Meyer said.

He bases that on industry standards that say a community can support one primary-care physician for every 1,500 people. The Tonganoxie area includes about 5,000 people.

"Tonganoxie's really our priority right now in this area," Meyer said.

The hospital's commitment is the first for the new subdivision, called Sunflower Plains. It's likely that the bank will construct an office building for its own employees, Donnelly said.

"We are full at both of our two bank locations, and now we're using the office area in the Ratliff Drug Store," he said. "After that, there's no place to go."

Donnelly said he also expects First State's downtown bank to undergo a facelift.

"It needs a lot of TLC, and as soon as that project is out of the way, we can look forward to the highway project," he said.

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