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Some Bergan neighbors cool to idea of expansion

Some Bergan neighbors cool to idea of expansion

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The idea of regular helicopter and rescue squad traffic buzzing over and through the neighborhood north of Bergan Mercy Medical Center doesn't sit well with Kris Woodke.

The area already sees its share of both, said Woodke, who lives near the hospital. The proposal to open a trauma center at Bergan, she said, would only increase the number of such noisy, speedy visitors. A trauma center “is not really a good fit.”

Alegent Creighton officials over the past few weeks have met with groups of physicians and employees to review options for the location of the health system's teaching hospital and trauma center, which now are at Creighton University Medical Center. They also have met with community members to assess the metro area's health care needs.

The input gathered so far leans toward moving the trauma center and academic medical center to Bergan Mercy, said Kelly Grinnell, an Alegent Creighton spokeswoman. That information will be presented to the board that oversees the health system at its meeting Thursday. The board is expected to decide how to proceed.

Health system officials haven't yet met with Bergan's neighbors or Franklin Thompson, the Omaha city councilman who represents the area around the hospital, which is at 75th Street and Mercy Road.

“I haven't heard from Alegent. I'm bothered by that,” Thompson said Thursday. “Under normal circumstances, a business like that would have contacted me back in June, July, August and said, 'Hey, this is what we're thinking about.' ”

Grinnell said Friday that until the board takes action, a move to Bergan is only a concept.

“We haven't really been able to get into the planning stage yet,” she said. The planning stage, she said, is “when we need to talk to neighbors and politicians and all of those folks.”

Alegent Creighton officials had not even talked with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert about the options until Thursday, she said.

Those options include:

» Keeping the academic medical center and the trauma center at the hospital at 30th and California Streets, on the Creighton University campus.

» Moving both to Bergan Mercy, where officials would renovate existing space and add a four-story building that could house outpatient clinic space and classrooms.

» Building a new medical center somewhere in the metro area.

Alegent Creighton officials put the cost of renovating and upgrading the Creighton site at $270 million. Building a new hospital, they said, would cost $400 million or more. The Bergan plan could cost $115 million to $135 million, they said, but it could cost up to $200 million, depending on what's done.

Bergan has unused space in its existing buildings and room on its campus that would allow for new construction, plus plenty of parking, officials have said. They say that if the academic medical center were to move, moving to Bergan makes the most sense.

Thompson said he has fielded questions about what might happen at Bergan from 14 constituents who live north of the hospital. Among them is Woodke, who said she's trying to get petitions circulated to oppose a trauma center.

Her neighborhood of houses, town homes and apartments sits between 78th and 75th Streets, Pacific Street and Mercy Road. Pacific Street businesses plus Nebraska Furniture Mart, the Walmart on 72nd Street and even Glad Tidings Church at 75th and Hickory Streets attract lots of cars, Woodke said.

Woodke neighbor Barb Moran said she worked for years at a trauma center. “I know the kind of confusion and congestion and ruckus it can cause, all hours of the day and night.” She, too, said she would oppose a move to Bergan.

City Public Works officials haven't spoken with Alegent Creighton officials about what might happen at Bergan, but City Engineer Todd Pfitzer said he didn't have concerns about roadway capacity. Mercy Road, he said, is a three-lane road — two lanes and a turning lane — and could handle extra traffic. The city also plans to widen 78th Street from north of Mercy Road to Pacific in 2017, he said.

Alegent Creighton officials have noted that Interstate access isn't as good at Bergan as it is at Creighton University Medical Center.

Employees at the Creighton hospital are anxious about the possibility of a move, said Patricia Townley, Alegent Creighton's campus operations director, who has worked at the hospital for 45 years. Townley was one of the Alegent Creighton employees who took part in the recent meetings with system managers.

From the information presented at the meeting, Townley said, it was apparent that keeping the academic medical center on the Creighton campus was not the best option. “Financially, the amount of time the renovation process would take and, in the end, we would have the same size building with just a little remodeling.”

Townley said, however, that “I did not get the feeling the decision to move to Bergan had been made.”

David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, attended the community meetings. He said it's clear that officials with the health system want to provide “the best bang for the buck in Omaha.”

Brown said he wanted to make sure “that as the Alegent Creighton folks were discussing each of those options, they take into consideration the impact on the local neighborhood or jobs available or service levels or the impact if the trauma center moved.”

Councilman Thompson said he wants to hear from Alegent Creighton officials before he forms an opinion about potential changes at Bergan. (Grinnell said Friday that a meeting is scheduled with him on Monday.)

He said, however, that “if I'm fielding call after call after call from neighbors and they're asking for details I don't know, that's not helping their cause a whole lot.”

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