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Franklin Hospital looks to become regional medical center

Plan compared to Froedtert, St. Luke's

July 6, 2012

Sheila Gansemer envisions an expanded Franklin Hospital as a potential "flagship" in the Wheaton Franciscan healthcare system.

Gansemer, vice president of patient care services at the hospital, gave a spirited presentation on the facility's plans for growth to members of the Franklin Plan Commission on Thursday.

Flagship? To Mayor Tom Taylor that word means hospitals like St. Luke's and Froedtert. Is that what she meant?

"Yes," she said. "A regional medical complex."

The hospital's proposal to build a roughly $50 million, three-story, 65,000-square-foot medical office building near the hospital was greeted warmly by members of the panel, but held up for technical reasons until next month's meeting.

The building, with an MRI suite, would provide offices for members of the Midwest Orthopedic Hospital that affiliated with Franklin Hospital in 2009. The freed-up space will allow the hospital to add 20 additional beds to the existing 32, two more gastrointestinal suites, two operating room suites, the MRI suite and interventional cardiology.

The goal of adding services and space is to keep patients within the facility and not have to refer them out, Gansemer said.

Beyond the medical office building, Gansemer revealed plans for an expanded campus, including as many as five more buildings in coming years.

Gansemer said since the hospital opened in 2008 as an outpatient facility, it has steadily grown in the number of patients it sees and the complexity of the cases it handles. As it attracted more patients, personnel perceived a desire among them to stay in Franklin, and not be sent for advanced care to Milwaukee County Medical Complex hospitals.

The hospital responded by adding 32 inpatient beds and recasting itself as a full-service, faith-based hospital with acute care, Gansemer said. Its partnership with the orthopedic group further expanded its services.

Gansemer said about 100 new employees will be added when the new building opens. The hospital today employs 500.

"There are all these intangible things that come from a regional medical center," Taylor said. More employees - many of them physicians with high incomes and, frequently, a desire to get involved - is one of those things.

City Planning Manager Joel Dietl said final approval of the plans awaits a variance allowing a building larger than 40,000 square feet on the parcel, as well as a laundry list of smaller matters.

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