ELK GROVE – Nothing brings home the importance of a community having adequate hospital facilities than the pandemic nightmare that Americans are experiencing today.
California has a serious hospital bed shortage ranking 44th out of 50 states, and the nine-county region has a shortage of 1,800 to 3,200 hospital beds, according to national health statistics.
Fortunately, plans are underway to address this critical shortage with the building of the first hospital in Elk Grove: California Northstate University Medical Center and Teaching Hospital (CNUMC).
The proposed teaching hospital will be located off I-5 at the Elk Grove Blvd exit. It will serve the west side of Elk Grove and the larger surrounding region. The 250-bed hospital will be built and eventually expanded to 400 beds.
“The pandemic has revealed that we are woefully short in hospitals,” says Dr. Alvin Cheung, CEO and president of California Northstate University (CNU), already located near the proposed site in Elk Grove.
“Today, Elk Grove has no hospital beds,” says Dr. Cheung, who is the driving force behind the hospital.
“The City of Elk Grove, which has almost 200,000 residents does not have its own hospital; residents must travel to Sacramento for critical emergency care. Comparably sized U.S. cities have an average of 410 hospital beds to serve their population,” he added.
Migration from the Bay Area and Southern California have also increased demand for medical services in the Sacramento region, Dr. Cheung says.
“No hospital in Elk Grove means less access to inpatient medical care, longer distances for many residents to access hospital ER for heart attacks, strokes and other life-or-death emergencies. CNUMC will significantly shorten critical response times to access emergency medical care.”
The $1.6 billion project is one of the largest projects in the region and local developer Allen Warren’s New Faze Advisors has been selected as the lead development consultant for the hospital.
Warren has led other large projects in the region, including chairing the Golden 1 arena project, and has an established record of enhancing communities in California, Nevada and Missouri. He recently marked the opening of an assisted living and memory care center in Citrus Heights and plans to open the second facility in El Dorado Hills in the fall of 2021 and a third in Sacramento in the spring of 2022.
The New Faze Advisors team will help lead the project through the complex environmental review and entitlement approval process.
Charanjeet (Charlie) Tiwana, New Faze’s lead project consultant, is responsible for pushing the project forward through its current entitlement phase. Ms. Tiwana has been with New Faze for six years and has gotten approvals for several New Faze projects, including housing, mixed use projects and the skilled nursing facility in Elk Grove.
“I’m excited about it because this wonderful project is really needed,” Ms. Tiwana says. “We have an aggressive timeline and expect to have approvals in place as early as next year.”
Ms. Tiwana says California Northstate University has taken medical instruction and care to the next level because students can easily transition from the school over to the hospital which is next door.
According to Dr. Cheung, the advantages of having a school next to a teaching hospital are enormous and explains why UC Davis moved its medical school to be near its medical center.
“Medical services are improved when a teaching hospital is near its affiliated medical school,” says Dr. Cheung. “CNUMC will significantly shorten critical response times to access emergency medical care and offer a more rigorous curriculum. It will provide vital tertiary care only offered at academic medical centers such as UC Davis, UCSF and Stanford. And it will train future generations of physicians while delivering state-of-the-art health care.
He added that teaching hospitals have larger residency training programs that will reach more patients with hospital care and encourage graduates to live and work in the area.
“Teaching hospitals…provide the most advanced medical care in the best facilities in the world and serve as hubs of medical innovation,” he added.
But it’s the economic growth and expansion for the area that most excites developer Warren.
“This project will result in a major investment in the local economy,” Warren said. “It will create high-quality jobs, raise home values, create new business tax revenues and provide career opportunities in the health care field. Other economic perks are increased business for area restaurants, retail stores, and other local businesses,” he added.
The proposed project was initially met with opposition by some Elk Grove residents who did not want the hospital to replace the nearby Stonelake Landing shopping center, which has struggled with many vacant storefronts since it opened in 2007. At the time CNU purchased the shopping center in 2018, it was 50 percent vacant. The center has always struggled as a retail center. Unused portions of the shopping center will be razed to make room for the hospital campus. The hospital will mostly occupy the consistently vacant portion of the mall. Certain tenants directly impacted were compensated to vacate their lease.
Elk Grove resident Michael Gunning thinks the location of the hospital is perfect. “This is a great development for a growing community. The core fabric of any community is a hospital and I am excited about it.”
Political strategist Joshua Wood, who ran two arena campaigns for former mayor Kevin Johnson, has been successful in building support for the project with a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of business, labor and community members. Wood keeps the Elk Grove City Council abreast of the proposed projects and says he’s encouraged by the involvement of the young and diverse council. He’s even got Elk Grove Police’s endorsement.
“This is the most important project in the history of the city,” Wood says. “Certainly, the most important one I have ever worked on. The footprint is huge, up to $4 billion. And it will create 24,000 jobs and generate $113 million in new business tax revenue for the Elk Grove.”
By Fahizah Alim | OBSERVER correspondent