Columbus Regional Health’s strategy to increase access to health care for residents of Bartholomew County and the region factored in the purchase of two properties on the city’s west side this year.

It’s also why the nonprofit, county-owned hospital/health system is planning to shed several notable properties from its portfolio that no longer fit its strategic goals.

Columbus Regional is trying to sell the former home of The Republic, the property where the Bartholomew County Annex had been located and a former Irwin Union Bank branch adjacent to the annex site. Sales of the former Republic building and annex site could be completed by the end of the year, hospital spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said.

Columbus Regional Health, through its holding company Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings, purchased a 1.7-acre property that included the Tipton Lakes Health Center, 4001 Goeller Blvd., for $3.3 million Nov. 1. The center is immediately north of a 1.5-acre vacant lot Columbus Regional owns at Goeller Boulevard and Tupelo Drive.

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On July 11, Columbus Regional purchased the 20.72-acre former Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 2480 W. Jonathon Moore Pike, for $4.25 million.

Both properties will help provide medical services to Columbus’ west side, which is experiencing growth in population and businesses, said Denise Glesing, Columbus Regional’s vice president for growth and strategic planning.

“Consumer needs for health care services are different than even 10 years ago,” Glesing said.

Columbus Regional has been more intentional about working with consumers this year to identify their needs, Glesing said. Through surveys, focus groups and other methods, it’s apparent that consumers want services when they want them and where they want them.

The days of one centrally located hospital providing medical services are past, DeClue said, and the health system has been working to bring health care services closer to residents for greater convenience.

Adapting to needs

Over the past 10 years, a greater percentage of Columbus Regional’s patient base has switched to outpatient services, she said.

Community surveys over the past few years, DeClue said, have identified that residents want:

More options of health care providers

To see providers in a timely manner

To access providers physically and by technology

Columbus Regional also has recognized that it needs to recruit more primary-care physicians to the community, plus more specialty service providers for cancer, heart and orthopedics patients, DeClue said.

On top of that, increases in traffic congestion forecast for the city’s west side — due to growth and an increase in train traffic — also have been factors in strategic discussions. That’s why purchasing the former Clarion and the Tipton Lakes Health Center made sense, DeClue said.

“With the Clarion, when knew when the opportunity came we couldn’t turn that down — the viability and availability of the property, and location,” DeClue said.

Identifying properties that suit Columbus Regional’s needs is a collective process involving senior leadership, and ties in with the ongoing strategic process, Glesing said. As needs are identified, a search for suitable properties begins.

The Clarion property will house medical services — probably multiple — and the need for urgent and emergency care on the west side is understood, DeClue said, but just what services will be offered at the site are still being determined.

Demolition of the Clarion property will be performed by Seymour-based Lawyer Excavating. Pre-demolition work such as gutting bathrooms and removing copper wiring has begun. The process will be methodical and could take a couple months, DeClue said.

After demolition, the land has to be improved because it’s in a flood plain and has to meet environmental and federal standards before construction can start. Architectural plans still have to be made. Construction isn’t likely to start until well into 2018, and it will probably be sometime in 2019 before the former Clarion site is ready to offer medical services, DeClue said.

Purchasing Tipton Lakes Health Center — which formerly housed Vascular Partners, and currently houses Taulman Chiropractic, Pawlus Dental and Benjamin Podiatry — will allow Columbus Regional to get more medical services to the west side sooner, DeClue said.

The health center also provides ready space for primary care doctors the hospital would like to attract — a possible advantage in the recruitment process, DeClue said.

“We want to recruit the best physicians, and want to have someplace for them to go,” she said.

Looking regionally

While purchasing property on the city’s west side will help Columbus Regional meet needs locally, it is taking a regional look at bringing services to residents, too.

The hospital’s radiation oncology physicians have been providing services at Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany for about three weeks, and at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour since June, Glesing said. Baptist Health is served five days a week, and Schneck two.

Columbus Regional has three radiation oncology physicians and is adding a fourth, Glesing said.

The collaborative approach between the hospitals ensures that the needs of patients are met at all the hospitals and that the physicians have plenty of patients, she said.

More partnerships could be possible in the future, Glesing said.

Another regional step is looking for opportunities within its network of physician practices, Glesing said. Some, such as Southern Indiana Nephrology and Hypertension, already provide services in nearby communities such as North Vernon, Seymour, Greensburg and Franklin.

“We will look at whether it’s still the right mix,” Glesing said, adding that increasing services could be a possibility.

Reassessing needs

While the former Clarion site and Tipton Lakes Health Center fit Columbus Regional’s current future needs, several properties no longer do.

When it purchased The Republic’s former home at 333 Second St., Columbus Regional envisioned using it for administrative purposes or financial services, and easing an internal space crunch felt at some of its locations, DeClue said.

Similarly, Columbus Regional bought the former ArvinMeritor tech center at 4580 Central Ave. for $5.9 million in 2007 so that it could move its information systems/data center, which had outgrown its space in the hospital’s basement.

But as the hospital continued to evaluate the architecturally significant Republic building — it’s one of seven buildings in Columbus cited by the National Historic Landmarks, designed by Myron Goldsmith — against its needs, Columbus Regional determined that it probably would serve the needs of another community organization better, DeClue said.

Discussions have been in the works with various community organizations for a while, she said.

“We are hoping to have an announcement on the future of the property — the exciting future of the property — by the end of the year,” DeClue said.

The former annex and Irwin Union Bank branch properties were both part of Columbus Regional’s effort to find a new home for the former Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, now known as VIMCare, that serves the uninsured and underinsured.

At one point the plan was for the county and Columbus Regional to partner on developing the annex site so it could house both VIM and the county nursing department.

But federal rules changes with Medicaid and Medicare forced Columbus Regional to scrap those plans and look for another option. For example, the Medicaid reimbursement rate to hospitals was cut dramatically for services not provided within 250 yards of a hospital, DeClue said. The proposed VIM site would not have been within that distance.

“That made the annex property a non-starter for VIM’s home,” she said.

Subsequently, Columbus Regional altered its VIM model to expand who it serves and found a suitable new home on the hospital campus in its former emergency department space, which opened when a new emergency department was constructed.

DeClue said an announcement about the sale of the former annex property is likely before the end of the year. However, that’s not the case with the former bank branch.

Because it has significance as a notable design by renowned architect Paul Kennon, Columbus Regional has been working with state historical preservationists and county organizations. However, a sale is not imminent, DeClue said.

Recent property acquisitions

Recent property acquisitions in the city by Columbus Regional Health through its holding company, Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings Inc., unless noted:

2015

Oct. 2: Former Irwin Union Bank branch, 2033 State St., nearly 1 acre, $300,000

2016

May 27: Former home of The Republic, 333 Second St., 2.18 acres, $2.7 million

Nov. 9: Former Bartholomew County Annex site, 1971 State Street, 2.4 acres, by Columbus Regional’s Board of Trustees in property swap with Bartholomew County Commissioners, with no money changing hands. Columbus Regional also received two irregularly shaped vacant parcels totaling about 1.3 acres near its mental health services building off Lincoln Park Drive. In exchange, the county received property at 2675 Foxpointe Drive, the new home of the county’s nursing department.

2017

July 11: Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, 2480 W. Jonathan Moore Pike, 20.72 acres, $4.25 million

Nov. 1: Tipton Lakes Health Care Center, 4001 Goeller Blvd., 1.7 acres, $3.3 million

Although legally exempt from paying property taxes, Columbus Regional has had a longstanding policy of paying taxes on its properties, hospital spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said.

CRH physician network

Columbus Regional Heath has a network of physician practices with Columbus Regional Health Physicians that involve primary and specialty care. They include:

Columbus Family Medicine, 3581 Central Ave.

Columbus Gynecology & Adult Medicine, 2326 18th St., Suite 210

Columbus Infectious Disease, 3581 Central Ave.

Columbus Internal Medicine Associates, 4050 Central Ave.

Columbus Pediatrics, 1120 N. Marr Road

Columbus Regional Physiatry, 2400 E. 17th St.

Columbus ENT & Allergy, 2326 18th St., Suite 230

Doctors Park Family Medicine, 3201 Middle Road, Columbus

Hospital Care Physicians (hospitalists), 2400 E. 17th St., Columbus

Kavelman Family Medicine, 2326 18th St., Suite 120, Columbus

Nashville Family Medicine, 103 Willow St., Suite B, Nashville

Neurology & Sleep Sciences, 1655 N. Gladstone Ave., Suite A, Columbus

OB/GYN Associates of Columbus, 3183 N. National Road

PrompMed, 2501 25th St., Columbus

Rau Family Medicine, 2326 18th St., Suite 220, Columbus

Sandcrest Family Medicine, 3203 Middle Road, Suite 230, Columbus

Southeastern Indiana Behavioral Services, 2400 E. 17th St., Columbus

Southeastern Indiana Cancer Care, 2400 E. 17th St., Columbus

Southeastern Indiana Respiratory & Critical Care, 2400 E. 17th St., Columbus

Southern Indiana Heart & Vascular, 2325 18th St., Suite 130, Columbus

Southern Indiana Nephrology and Hypertension, 940 N. Marr Road, Suite B, Columbus

Southern Indiana OB/GYN, 2450 Northpark, Suite A, Columbus

VIMCare Clinic, 2400 E. 17th St., Columbus

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.