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State OKs $650 million teaching hospital on Boca's FAU campus

Sun-Sentinel - 12/20/2006 12:00:00 AM
by Scott Travis

Florida Atlantic University received state approval Tuesday to become the new home for Boca Raton Community Hospital.

FAU will lease 38 acres of land to the private hospital, which will build a $650 million teaching hospital that will serve both FAU medical students and the community. It received unanimous approval from Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet.

"It's going to expand and enhance medical services throughout South Florida," said Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush.

Hospital architects will now continue designing the new facility, which will be on the southeast corner of the campus, at Glades Road and Florida Atlantic Boulevard. The hospital is set to break ground in 2008 and open in 2011. Initially, it will have 530 beds, all in private rooms, and will have the ability to expand up to 700.

Boca Raton Community Hospital officials said it's their goal to build the "safest hospital in the country" using state-of-the art technology.

"Through our organizations' shared resources and vision, the South Florida population will have access to the very best medical care, and will be assured of having an ample supply of well-trained physicians and nurses to treat them," CEO Gary Strack said.

FAU President Frank Brogan was equally excited.

"The teaching hospital will provide an important learning experience for the physicians of tomorrow," he said. "The opportunities created by this partnership will propel FAU forward in becoming a cornerstone of medical education and research."

The hospital will be 1.1 million square feet, twice its current size, and will include resident and student conference rooms, a conference center, resident sleeping quarters with lockers, resident dining facilities, a resident lounge and a medical library.

Hospital officials say they don't know what they will do with the current site on Meadows Road south of Glades Road. A new, $75 million Lynn Comprehensive Cancer Center is scheduled to open in 2008, north of the current site and south of FAU. The hospital is also in the midst of a $250 million fundraising campaign to pay for the new capital projects.

The initial lease term of the hospital site at FAU is 99 years, starting in 2006, with an option to renew for another 99 years. FAU will also support the hospital if it wants to buy the land from the state. The hospital will pay FAU at least $21.25 million for rent during the next 10 years.

FAU considers the hospital an important part of its relationship with the University of Miami. FAU offers two years of medical classes under UM's umbrella. But students have to go to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami for two more years of clinical training. That will no longer be necessary with a training hospital on campus.

"And the university does not have to pay for [its own facility], because you have a hospital willing to do this," said Dr. Michael Friedland, vice president of medical programs at FAU.

"This will really provide the residents of Palm Beach and North Broward an environment that should have existed long ago. We'll be comparable to any major city that has a major academic hospital."

Scott Travis can be reached at stravis@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6637.