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Regents Approve $375 Million UCIMC Hospital

In a meeting at UCLA on Nov. 18, the UC Board of Regents gave the UCI Medical Center the green light to start building a new $375 million hospital. This new hospital will be built next to the current UCIMC hospital in the City of Orange, and the current hospital will be torn down following the new hospital’s completion.
This new-state-of-the-art, 407-bed medical center will replace the current main hospital building upon its projected completion in 2009. The existing building, which was built in the early 1960s, does not meet structural standards established for hospitals in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. By law, all hospitals must be retrofitted, replaced or taken out of service.
After four years of planning, the project has finally taken shape. The main funding for the project comes from a $275 million state grant in the form of lease revenue bonds. The UCIMC hopes to raise about $50 million and will kick off a major public fundraising campaign in the summer of 2005. The rest of the funding will come from university reserves and financing.
According to Ralph Cygan, CEO of the UCIMC, the new hospital will improve neuroscience, cancer and cardiovascular treatment. It would also continue to address health care needs through its gynecology, oncology and geriatrics departments, for which the UCIMC is considered one the nation’s top hospitals.
Improvements will be built in the area of gastroetiology, urology and robotic surgery. The UCIMC will also continue to serve as Orange County’s major trauma center.
‘Tremendous purchasing will be done,’ Cygan said regarding the incorporation of latest diagnostic and treatment technologies. ‘[The UCIMC] will boast many of the latest equipment innovations the medical industry has to offer. We have already invested heavily in upgrading our diagnostic and treatment technologies. Equipment advances are happening so rapidly that today’s equipment is often obsolete within just few years.’
The UCIMC will also create support space for UCI’s medical students, such as small classrooms, computer facilities, wireless access to medical records and large patient rooms.
‘One of the reasons for large-sized patients’ rooms is not only to house the patient’s relative or friend but also to provide actual bedside teaching to students,’ Cygan explained.
In regard to recent student fee increases, some people may question the need for a new medical center, but Cygan does not believe this concern is relevant, and that it is more expensive to renovate an old hospital than to build a new one.
‘The hospital is being built with state and university bond money, donations and hospital reserves collected through billing of patients. Renovating a 40-year-old building is a poor use of the state’s and the university’s resources,’ Cygan said.
Cygan also said the new hospital will be vital for the region.
‘As Orange County’s only university hospital, trauma center and regional burn center, it is critical that the new hospital meets strict state seismic codes,’ Cygan said. ‘The people of Orange County deserve to have local access to a first-rate academic medical center.’
Cygan believes that the new medical center will provide many people with the health care they deserve.
‘Access to the best health care in our state and throughout the nation is not equitable,’ Cygan said. ‘There is a lot of waste in the nation’s health care system due to bureaucracy and complexity of the system. This waste of resources limits access to health care, [but] everyone deserves access to good medical care.’
Excavation of the site will start by fall 2005. The expected date of completion is January 2009.