St. Louis hospitals dispute coalition's capacity numbers

The way the St. Louis Business Health Coalition tells it, the region's prosperous hospitals have been engaging in billion-dollar building projects--such as cancer centers, heart hospitals and patient towers--despite having excess capacity already, needlessly driving up the cost of care. Between 2003 and 2005, the average cost per patient stay increased 10 percent a year in St. Louis hospitals, according to recent research by the Coalition. At the same time, fewer than 60 percent of the area's hospital beds were filled on an average day in 2005, the Coalition's researchers concluded.

The hospitals, meanwhile, are firing back, arguing that their building projects offer opportunities to improve care, update technology and boost patient safety. For example, St. John's Mercy Medical Center, which recently built a heart hospital and is constructing a patient tower, says that improvements there aren't expanding capacity, but instead, are creating private rooms that can cut infection rates. Missouri Baptist Medical Center, for its part, says that its recent emergency department expansion has reduced the ED's wait times, and that other projects have updated hospital space built many years ago.

To learn more about the St. Louis area debate:
- read this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article

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