Photo by: Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register
A balsa wood model under a pristine glass case in a Hoag Hospital Irvine office is the first step of a vision for a major expansion of the medical center on Sand Canyon Avenue, which will add, among other services, two specialty hospitals focused on women’s health, digestive illnesses and cancer.
When that model is brought to life, Hoag will have poured an eye-popping $1 billion into the expansion and added between 1,000 to 1,500 staff members, many of whom have specialized jobs and training.
The Irvine location will be called the Sun Family Campus in recognition of a $50 million gift to Hoag by philanthropists Diana and David Sun earlier this year.
Six buildings will add 155 more hospital beds, eight operating rooms and 120,000 square feet of offices and other “support space,” said Hoag CEO Robert Braithwaite. The specialty hospitals will have inpatient and outpatient facilities, operating rooms will be housed in a new building, and pharmacy and laboratories will be in another.
Work has already begun, with the second of two parking structures under construction now on the campus. The remaining facilities are expected to be completed by 2025.
“When we get to some of these clinical spaces, it’ll literally change healthcare for the greater Irvine community in a very meaningful way,” Braithwaite said.
The city is experiencing an unprecedented health care expansion.
This year, City of Hope opened its Lennar outpatient cancer center off Barranca Parkway and is now building an adjacent cancer-focused hospital to be unveiled in 2025. UC Irvine is expanding its medical-related academics and is also building a $1.3 billion medical complex near its campus with a full-service hospital, also expected to open in 2025.
Mayor Farrah Khan called this new medical footprint developing in the city a “win-win,” benefiting not only Irvine residents, but “Orange County as a whole.”
“Just about every medical facility,” she said, “is really looking at the whole wellness of our community and bringing that to us here.”
Hoag’s leaders see its expansion among all that investment in Irvine as adding an opportunity to combine the personalized care of private doctor visits with being at the forefront of emerging research and technologies, they said.
“What we’d like to see here is a concept that we’ve been coining as ‘priva-demics,’” said Dr. Elizabeth Raskin, a colorectal surgeon and surgical director of the hospital’s inflammatory bowel disease program, part of the Digestive Health Institute expanding in Irvine.
“We bring the best of what happens in private medicine – the interaction that you have with the providers, the care that you receive when a private practitioner is taking care of you – but (with) the academic tilt, where you have all of the new developments that are occurring in research,” she said. “We’re then able to be early adopters of some of that knowledge and technology, and (are then) able to use that where we see fit with our patients.”
The expanded campus will be a place where not only treatments take place, but also research and clinical trials, Hoag officials said. The use of new technologies, such as robotics surgery programs and virtual reality medical services, will also be expanded, they said. In a clinical innovation center, biotech companies can have space to deploy new equipment in collaboration with on-site doctors.
On the cancer side, programs exploring the growing field of early detection and prevention methods will be expanded with the new footprint, for example, said Dr. Burt Eisenburg, executive medical director for the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.
“It gives us an opportunity to bring in new doctors and new research scientists, who will then help us develop the cancer programs in the future,” he said.
An urgent care center specifically for cancer patients will provide “a place to go if they’re having a problem, 24/7, so they don’t have to go to an emergency room where there are hundreds of people coughing all over each other,” Eisenburg said.
“And they can get immediate attention to their cancer-related problem.”
‘Designed for the community’
Hoag leaders said they’ve let the community’s needs direct their planning.
“When you look at where we put our urgent cares or where we put our health centers, they’re not all the same,” said Dr. Allyson Brooks, executive medical director for women’s services at Hoag. “They were designed for the community that they’re serving, and they all have a different feel. They have different types of physicians that are working there. They cater to a different demographic.”
At Hoag’s Newport Beach hospital, the maternity unit was delivering “a kindergarten class a day” of babies, about 6,500 a year, Brooks said. “And when we looked at the demographics, we saw to our surprise that 40% of the women that were delivering there came from Irvine.”
That drove the decision to add a a women’s health hospital to the Irvine campus, she said. “We wanted to bring the health care to the people, rather than making them all drive down the 55 (Freeway) to a hospital that was surrounded by water.
“That was obvious that we needed something here.”
The addition should allow Hoag to deliver another 5,500 babies a year.
The facility will also expand breast care services such as exams, prevention and treatment, but the focus will be on maternity care.
Sometimes having a baby can be a woman’s introduction into health care, and if Hoag provides a variety of needed services that woman might remain a patient well into their lives, Brooks said.
“They will use our cancer institute,” she said. “If they have inflammatory bowel disease, they’ll come see Dr. Raskin or her team.”
Treating complex cases
Hoag’s goal is to have the services and specialists available to take care of even the most complex medical cases onsite, without having to transfer someone to another medical center.
The research and technologies that Hoag leaders say will be available at the Irvine campus “halts the migration of patients from going to places, seeking answers and seeking technology that they may feel is only available in academics,” Raskin said. “We want to be able to provide the care right here in this community, where patients don’t need to travel far to find solutions.”
Raskin described the menu of care Hoag is trying to deliver like a wheel with spokes, “where our patients are at the center of the wheel and then radially, we have all of our sub specialists that are involved in our care.”
Part of that care includes creating an environment that patients feel comfortable in, she added. Plants, meditation gardens and other nature components are featured in the design of the campus.
In digestive health issues, illnesses are typically chronic and require long-term care than can span across specialties, Raskin noted, so having a central location with many experts on hand who can communicate easily is a huge benefit.
“These are patients that need to establish relationships with individuals that they’re going to see throughout their lifetime,” she said. “And so what we need to do is build teams around them.”