Rethinking facilities: Colgan’s CHA partners are converting closed hospitals to new uses, often saving jobs

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From the adoption of telemedicine to measures taken to prevent COVID-19 cases from overtaking facilities, hospitals have been reshaped by a wave of pandemic trends.

You can count on Bill Colgan, managing partner at CHA Partners, who knows a thing or two about redesigning hospitals.

His company has focused since its inception in 2008 on taking formerly closed hospitals and reopening them with a new purpose. And there have been a myriad of opportunities for that.

Colgan, who has spent nearly three decades in healthcare, can say that when he started – before a number of healthcare facilities across the state fell into financial and were forced to suddenly close their doors – there were 115 acute care hospitals in the state.

“And in my tenure in health care (and at the ACH), we’ve now gone below 70,” he said. “We get almost half of those installs that go by the wayside in my professional career.”

What was apparent to him from the outset was that the hospital environment was going to continue to consolidate, not only because large healthcare systems focused their efforts on certain geographic areas and patient bases, but because the number number of days patients spend in the hospital was decreasing. – and carry on.

“It’s easy to understand, and it’s a trend that will continue: we’re becoming more efficient in health care, we have different levels of providers, and we have a lot of advancements in technological procedures, things that would have required far more invasive surgeries and long hospital recoveries in the past,” he said.

CHA was one of the only companies in New Jersey to focus entirely on the redevelopment of these closed acute care hospitals. The good news, for Colgan, is that this work has shown the potential to restore job opportunities lost in abandoned hospital settings.

“If you look historically at the five hospitals that we’ve built, we maintain about three jobs for every 1,000 square feet of healthcare,” he said. “So we have 900 jobs saved by filling some specific gaps that would not be filled if the facility were closed.”

One of his latest projects was a medical arts complex opened in 2019 in Rockaway Beach, New York, designed as a way to replenish services lost when a local hospital closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. ten years ago. He also recently got involved in helping St. Joseph’s Health expand its footprint with the construction of a medical practice in Totowa.

But the company is generally focused on finding new life for already existing facilities, such as the repositioning of its 120-apartment building at the former Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield.

When these facilities are restored to medical use today, there are a number of new considerations for how they might be updated to meet the needs of a health care industry that places greater emphasis on infection control, Colgan said.

“For example, we are now faced with a situation where we may have to design buildings with 100% air exchange,” he said. “With these types of designs, on an 8-degree day, trying to wear that and heat up to an ambient 72-degree temperature is quite a challenge.”

During the pandemic, more space is needed between patients, staff and visitors in different parts of a hospital than these facilities were ever designed for, Colgan said.

There is another kind of acute care center that will be ideal for today’s providers, but Colgan is confident his company will be able to accommodate these changes, even with yesterday’s facilities as a starting point.

“We have the expertise for that,” he said.

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