SSM Health’s new hospital in Midtown

The new facility consists of a nine-story patient tower and a three-story ambulatory care center connected by a common space

ST. LOUIS — SSM Health broke ground three years ago on a $550 million replacement facility for Saint Louis University Hospital, and now its only days until the new building opens. It’s been five years since SSM took ownership of the hospital and immediately announced the replacement project.

“Sometimes it’s like, we’ve been at it for a while and now it’s really exciting to get to open,” said Kelly Baumer, vice president of clinical operations for SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. “But other times I’m like, wow, that five years went pretty fast.” She oversees the master development plan for the new hospital.

Saint Louis University bought back the hospital from Dallas-based Tenet Corp. in 2015 for about $32 million, and then contributed it to SSM Health. In exchange for the hospital, which SSM owns and operates, the university received a minority financial interest and governance rights in SSM St. Louis. SLU sold the hospital to Tenet in 1998.

The new hospital is located on 15 acres adjacent to the current hospital on Grand Boulevard between Rutger and Lasalle streets. Since construction on the new facility was completed this spring, SSM has been transitioning and training staff to work in the 316-bed, 802,000-square-foot replacement hospital and new outpatient care center.

On Sunday, Aug. 30, patients will be moved from the “legacy” hospital to the new facility through a corridor that connects them. The grand opening is Tuesday, Sept. 1, five years to the day from when SSM took ownership, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for 6:15 p.m. A portion of the ceremony will be live streamed at 7 p.m. on SSM’s website.

The new facility consists of a nine-story patient tower and a three-story ambulatory care center connected by a common space holding a reception desk, cafe, gift shop, chapel and conference space. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow in natural light and city views.

Baumer, who also oversees strategic service line growth and operations for the hospital’s perioperative services as well as its transplant, trauma and oncology services, talked to the Business Journal this week about the new facility. 

Why was a replacement hospital needed? We’re in a facility where over the years we’ve added on and tried to accommodate all the new services we’re offering. But when you keep adding onto buildings, over time, things aren’t necessarily located in the most appropriate place, and you can’t always bring in the latest technology. With this new hospital, we were able to address those things, plus make space for new technologies, new innovations. As an academic medical center, you want to be able to continue to do that. Plus, we wanted to go to all private patient rooms. In our current facility, we didn’t have enough space to make all patient rooms private.

What’s the plan for the old facility? We’ve not finalized the plan for the old building yet. For right now, the Bordley Tower, the patient tower that was added on in the late ‘80s, will be closed. The Firmin Desloge building, with the iconic green roof, will be repurposed but we haven’t made final plans on that yet.

SLU Hospital has about 2,000 full- and part-time employees. Are you hiring more with the new facility’s opening? We have hired approximately 75 additional employees for the opening of the new hospital with plans to continue hiring.

How did preparations change because of Covid-19? To make sure we maintain the safety of everyone, we did a lot of our training (for the move) virtually. Then whenever we did bring employees over to start learning their new space, we had to limit our groups, 10 people. The other thing is inside our waiting areas, and we had to go back and take some of the furniture out, space it apart, to make sure that we were maintaining social distancing. And we installed a lot of plexiglass throughout the facility, anywhere where there’s a counter or where there’s interaction between a worker and a patient.

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