Dr. Joanne Conroy

Increasing demands for specialty and high-acuity care drove the decision for the $130 million expansion of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said the hospital system’s president and CEO, Dr. Joanne M. Conroy.

LEBANON — Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health trustees have endorsed a plan for a $130 million expansion at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Plans includes a 132,000-square-foot, 60-bed inpatient tower, along with renovation and expansion of the medical center’s emergency department. A new parking garage also is planned.

“A financing plan is being developed but it is anticipated that funding for these projects will come from a mix of equity, philanthropy and debt issuance,” the announcement on Friday said. “Pending regulatory approvals, ground-breaking for the project is anticipated later in the spring of 2019, with completion over three to four years.”

The proposed four-story patient tower includes two floors of single-occupancy inpatient rooms, totaling 60 beds; a floor to accommodate another 30 beds that may be added at a later date; and a floor for service and mechanical space, according to the announcement

“This is a highly ambitious, but badly needed, step toward Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health’s future,” said CEO and President Joanne M. Conroy M.D. “For some time now, we’ve seen demand for our care dramatically grow, and we’ve had success with our member hospitals in both states in making sure patients receive the right care, at the right time, close to home.

“But the increasing demands for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s specialty and high-acuity care, in all disciplines, requires us to expand our capacity so that patients can access that care here in Lebanon,” Conroy said. “This plan moves us decisively in that direction.”

This would mark the first major capital improvement to the Lebanon campus since the 2015 opening of the Williamson Translational Research Building.

Demand for services at the medical center has risen dramatically over the last several years, resulting in consistently high occupancy of its 396 licensed beds. Occupancy rates regularly run at 90 percent, resulting in diverting patients seeking high-level or specialized care to other facilities in New England.

The new tower is expected to provide access for the existing, unmet demand of about 3,000 inpatient admissions a year.

The existing inpatient towers opened in 1991, when Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital moved to its current location from its original home in Hanover as part of the $218 million DHMC project. The facility opened with five floors of inpatient rooms in two towers on the north side of the complex. The proposed four-story tower would be located between the existing towers.

“Increasing demand for emergency services has quickly outstripped the facility’s ability to manage incoming cases, with DHMC’s emergency department averaging approximately 32,000 patient visits annually,” the announcement said.

The last major renovation to the emergency department was in 2004. The plan calls for renovations and the addition of 14 evaluation and treatment rooms in the ER. The proposed parking garage would provide 400 spaces.

mcousineau@unionleader.com