Planners pick site for new Mat-Su hospital

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A new hospital in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will rise about halfway between Palmer and Wasilla under plans announced by hospital officials on Friday.

The $87 million hospital will be just north of the Parks Highway, about a mile west of the Glenn-Parks intersection, officials said at a press conference.

Plans call for a two-floor, 76-bed facility with big windows facing the Chugach Mountains. A third-floor ''shell'' -- covered but not finished -- means capacity could grow to 128 beds.

Officials say population growth in the area is outpacing the 39-bed capacity at Valley Hospital, a Palmer fixture since 1935.

They had promised to put the new facility somewhere between Palmer and Wasilla and analyzed nearly a dozen parcels. The new location is about seven miles from Palmer and six from Wasilla, said hospital chief executive officer George Larson.

The selected site's appeal was its cost, access to utilities and proximity to major highways, Larson said.

A new hospital is expected to open by early 2006 if planners can obtain the property and state approval. The existing facility will remain open at least until then.

Hospital officials are still ironing out details on purchasing three separate parcels valued together at $2 million:

-- A 15-acre core parcel now occupied by the Bestview RV & Mobile Home Park. Hospital officials expect to have a contract with park owner Bettie Watkins in several weeks.

-- Four acres owned by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, currently the site of a visitor center to be relocated and a Veteran's Memorial to be incorporated into the hospital.

A 6- to 10-acre parcel owned by the University of Alaska. One section of the university property is available this year. A second would be available later.

The hospital still needs state approval in the form of a certificate of need.

Last November, Valley Hospital Association members approved a joint venture with Texas-based Triad Hospitals Inc., forming the Mat-Su Valley Medical Center LLC. Triad will provide the $87.7 million cost of construction and startup operations. Valley Hospital Association will provide existing buildings, equipment and other hard assets.

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