University of Utah Health planning a $400M facility that will bring valuable, lifesaving care to an underserved area.
(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
| March 9, 2022, 2:00 p.m.
Every year, 85,000 residents from the west side of the Salt Lake Valley spend a combined 350,000 hours traveling 12 million total miles to get medical services at a University of Utah hospital.
They also make 15,000 visits annually to university emergency departments.
In a few years, those trips will be much shorter and quicker, thanks to plans by University of Utah Health to build a large and innovative West Valley Health and Community Center — including a hospital — at 3750 S. 5600 West in West Valley City.
The first phase of the vast $400 million project is scheduled to open in late 2026 or early 2027.
“This facility will look and feel very different than our existing facilities, which tend to be more traditional,” said Dr. Michael Good, CEO of U. Health. “…We are challenging our teams to be very community-focused and innovative in how they plan this facility.”
To fund it, the U. sought a state bond, which lawmakers gave final approval to earlier this month. It will be repaid through clinic revenues.
“So often, members of the community have to travel all the way up to the university to see their specialists,” Good said, “and we’re going to bring the specialists into the community.”
What will be built?
The west side experiences not only specialized-care shortages but also health disparities. Its rates of serious health conditions run higher than the Salt Lake County average, the U. reported. There are 44% more diabetes cases, for instance, and a 38% greater prevalence of stroke.
The U. has a west-side clinic — called the Westridge Health Center — near Bangerter Highway and 4700 South, along the border of West Valley City and Taylorsville. Its resources, however, are limited. It doesn’t offer hospitalization, and its urgent care is for illnesses or injuries that aren’t life-threatening.
Other providers have west-side hospitals, and U. Health runs the South Jordan Health Center, which serves the mushrooming population in the southwestern part of the valley. The facility in the Daybreak community offers primary and specialty care, in addition to outpatient surgery and an emergency room.
But the coming West Valley City health complex has a wider mission. Besides keeping pace with the area’s population growth, it will boost medical options in an underserved area and become a clinical training center.
The center will include specialists for cardiovascular, orthopedics, women and maternal care. It will have an emergency room and areas for the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Phase one will include:
• A 428,000-square-foot inpatient hospital, with 187 inpatient beds, 22 ER beds, 25 operating and procedure rooms, and full associated services.
• A 159,000-square-foot ambulatory building, with 185 exam rooms and full ancillary services.
Later construction will house an educational building and an event plaza.
How many jobs are coming?
This year and next, the U. plans to bring west-siders into the design conversation for the massive project.
While health care professionals and facilities are a big part of keeping communities healthy, Good said, the U. is also weighing other factors such as training and job opportunities to integrate the complex into the west-side community.
One goal is to hire west-siders to staff the facility. The U. partnered with Salt Lake Community College to train people who will work there when it opens.
“We’re already starting work on that. It will take about four years to plan and build the health and community center,” Good said, “but we’re not going to wait on the education and training programs. We’re going to work to roll those out in the coming months and years.”
The complex will bring 250 additional health care professionals to a highly underserved area and 2,000 new jobs to West Valley City.
Nicole Cottle, West Valley City’s assistant city manager, presented the project to the City Council. Though the city already has a Steward Health Care hospital (the Jordan Valley Medical Center West Valley Campus at 3460 S. 4155 West) and various clinics, there’s nothing like the U. complex in terms of size and services.
Since this is a state-driven project, the city didn’t participate in the selection process.
“In any typical development, when you’re looking for a spot, you look at the available ground and then try to find this size to meet,” Cottle said, “and because we’re already built out, that’s a pretty difficult challenge.”
The U. will work with the Utah Department of Transportation to ease the congestion a complex of this scale will bring to the area.
“We will be making recommendations as to entry and exit — and just things that we know from being in this business a long time will be helpful to them to facilitate that,” Cottle said, “and while we don’t have oversight from a permitting perspective, they have been very willing to engage with us.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.