The University of Miami Health System will break ground this summer on a four-story, 200,000-square-foot walk-in and specialty care center just south of the BankUnited Center (BUC). The project is slated for completion by 2016.
The center will be located where the now-razed sculpture building was, and take up part of the eastern end of the Wellness Center parking lot.
This expansion aims to bring UHealth services, physicians and specialists to the southern part of Miami-Dade County, said Joe Natoli, senior vice president for business and finance and interim chief operating officer of the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth.
“It’s an important part of the community that we want to serve and has the added value of our own faculty and staff and students, so it has long made a lot of sense,” Natoli said. “We try to encourage our employees and their dependents to use UM doctors and facilities, and this will bring that care much closer to them making it a lot more convenient for them.”
The new site also offers a closer healthcare option than traveling downtown to the UM medical complex for residents of Coral Gables, Kendall and other parts of South Dade.
The UHealth at Coral Gables facility will include urgent care; outpatient surgery; cancer care, such as radiation oncology and chemotherapy; interventional radiology and diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and CT, MRI and PET scans.
According to an article reported by The Miami Herald, the center is expected to cost $140 million.
Specialists from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute will be among the UM physicians providing these health care services. Bascom Palmer ranks as the nation’s No. 1 ophthalmology program in U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best Hospital rankings.
There are also plans to eventually move the current Student Health Center to the new facility, according to Natoli. Though the center will be a bit farther from the center of campus, Natoli believes the benefits of having availability of many more specialists and new services will be worth the walk or shuttle ride.
“I think it’s going to be a good deal for students in that it’s going to be state of the art and all of the technology that a student may need,” he said. “I mean right now you can get an X-ray in the existing facility, but if you need anything much more sophisticated than that, you have to go downtown. So here they’ll really be able to get everything they might need in that facility.”
Pat Whitely, vice president for Student Affairs, agrees.
“It’s a great benefit to students because it allows us to have one-stop shopping,” she said. “We’ll be able to provide students not only brand new, state of the art health center but we’ll also be able to provide a number of specialty doctors on site right here on the campus.”
The hours of operation for the new urgent care center have not yet been determined. But Natoli said the center may be open about 18 to 20 hours a day. The current Student Health Center is open for more limited hours.
“The new UHealth Center will bring better access and medical attention to University of Miami students,” recently-elected Student Government President Alessandria San Roma said. “It is a unique benefit that truly puts UM students first.”
The outpatient facility will be located at 5550 Ponce de Leon Blvd., across from the Flipse Building. In April, construction will begin to shift Dickinson Drive – which leads to the Wellness Center and Stanford and Hecht residential colleges – closer to the BUC to allow more room for the new health center.
Plans include connecting the Ponce de Leon Parking Garage to the health center with an air-conditioned walkway over the canal. The facility will also be near the University Metrorail station and Metrobus.
There are future plans to build an additional parking garage near Pavia on the other side of the BUC, Natoli said.
“We like the idea of convenient parking, convenience to the Metrorail, and high visibility I mean this will be one of the most visible locations in town, really, because it’s right off Ponce and just off U.S. 1,” he said.
Christine Morris, associate vice president for communications of the Miller School of Medicine, believes this will make it easier for people who are not willing to drive downtown to access comprehensive care at UHealth.
The advantage of being an academic medical center, according to Natoli, is having physicians who are up-to-date on the latest developments in their subspecialities and have access to clinical trials and can make that available to patients.
“The cancer statistics really make clear the advantages of an academic medical center,” Morris said. “It speaks a lot to the power of the institution and the difference we can make and how we are different from other places.”