Patients at Strong Memorial Hospital will be examined and treated in a 175,000-square-foot emergency department, with access to more clinical space and all-private inpatient rooms, upon completion of an expansion and renovation project announced today by the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The Strong Expansion project will add more than 200 examination/treatment and patient observation stations in phases to the Strong ED and Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP). Plans also include a new 9-story inpatient bed tower scheduled for completion in 2027, which will add more ED space and floors for future diagnostic and treatment services, along with more than 100 private inpatient rooms.
Both components of the project will help to address chronic bed shortages and ED overcrowding issues that the community has faced for years, which were further highlighted during the COVID pandemic.
The tower will be built west of the current hospital entrance at 601 Elmwood Ave., on a site that has housed hospital facility departments and loading docks. There will be minimal construction impacts on current patient services, entrances and parking.
Officials noted that the plans are subject to change and require approval from the University Board of Trustees and New York State Department of Health.
University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf described the expansion, which will add more than 650,000 square feet of new hospital space, as an investment in the community and the medical center. “Strong Memorial Hospital is a tremendous asset to our community, providing patients the most advanced medical services available in Upstate New York, regardless of their ability to pay,” Mangelsdorf said. “Educationally, it is a powerful medical-center asset to have a large teaching hospital integrated physically with our three professional schools for clinicians, and the research labs where medical discoveries are made. This project will represent a critical investment in modernizing our community’s and our region’s largest hospital for 21st century needs.”
Tower Will Serve Cardiovascular Patients
Strong is the only hospital in Upstate New York to provide the full continuum of cardiovascular care, from hypertension to transplantation, and is a national leader in treating heart failure patients using left-ventricular assistive devices (LVADs).
Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of the medical center, said an analysis of projected patient demand for these services showed a good fit for placement in the new patient tower. URMC plans to design clinical space to serve patients with heart and vascular disease. Floors above will be used primarily for intensive care units and inpatient rooms that care for these patients.
“Consolidating cardiovascular services on adjacent floors will improve efficiency and convenience for our clinicians, patients, and families,” Taubman said. “Upon completion, the new tower will be one of the most advanced treatment facilities in the world for patients with cardiovascular disease.”
Current Hospital Space Will Be Renovated
The Strong Expansion project will be the most comprehensive modernization project since the current patient tower was completed in 1975, said Steven I. Goldstein, Chief Executive Officer and President of Strong Memorial and Highland hospitals. He explained that most floors in the current patient tower will begin being renovated during construction of the new tower, so that all patients will have modern, private rooms. Renovation of the existing hospital will continue as modernization is needed after the expansion project is complete.
“With the opening of the 164,000-square-foot Wilmot Cancer Institute in 2008, Strong created a state-of-the-art facility for our doctors, nurses and staff members to better serve cancer patients,” Goldstein said. “When Golisano Children’s Hospital opened in 2015, we added 245,000 square feet of advanced clinical and inpatient space to better serve pediatric patients. This project will add more new space than both of those projects combined, while modernizing facilities currently used for other medical and surgical specialties. The result will be a fully modernized hospital for the needs of UR Medicine patients today and well into the future.”
The project is being designed by Ballinger Architects, which also designed the Golisano Children’s Hospital tower.
ED Will Expand From 46,000 to 175,000 Square Feet
Strong Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, handled more than 110,000 patient visits in 2021, including more than 9,000 served by the CPEP team, in spaces designed to serve annual patient volumes less than half of that demand.
Kathy Parrinello, Chief Operating Officer for Strong, said the ground floor of the new patient tower will include new ED space and a Fast Track section, enabling patients with lower-acuity concerns to be treated and released quickly. CPEP will expand to occupy the entire second floor of its current space, more than doubling space for all emergency medical needs, including behavioral health services.
“Our ED teams do an outstanding job of ensuring that every patient receives the care they need as quickly as possible,” Parrinello said. “However, there are times when patients with lower-acuity needs have to wait longer than they should, simply because we don’t have the space to treat them. This project will begin to relieve those space issues as quickly as possible, and create a new ED that is fully right-sized for patient demand when the project is complete.”
An “ED North” expansion, built concurrently with the new tower, will create a larger, covered entrance to serve patients arriving by ambulance or private transportation, with a more efficient triage and registration area and larger waiting room. Additionally, an 80,000-square-foot garage will provide more parking space for patients and families.
Strong has taken multiple steps within the current footprint to improve patient care, Parrinello noted. A previous expansion of the current EMS entrance completed several years ago already is better serving patients who arrive by ambulance. Renovations to the CPEP unit within its current space were done in 2020, and a 20-bed, 10,000-square-foot expansion to the ED was completed in 2021 to allow more space for patients who are in the ED and are waiting for a hospital room. A modernization of the EMS arrival area has helped support our EMS colleagues, and a temporary engineered structure was erected in front of the ED during the pandemic for treat-and-release patients.