A new hospital is coming to the Health Sciences Campus over the next few years, which the University hopes will expand medical care at the Keck School of Medicine.
President C. L. Max Nikias announced the construction of the hospital at his State of the University address on Feb. 14. According to Keck Dean Rohit Varma, the announcement could not have come at a more appropriate time.
“Our current hospital and facilities are very old,” Varma said. “We spend a fair amount of money fixing the infrastructure of the current hospital — tens of millions of dollars. The needs of the hospital have grown to the point where we need much more modernized space and equipment to provide care.”
Keck maintains three facilities: the Keck Hospital of USC, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital and the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. The largest one, Keck Hospital, opened in 1991 and serves as a research and teaching hospital with 401 licensed beds. Seven of the hospital’s medical specialties have earned a top 50 national ranking from U.S. News and World Report.
Varma is confident that the new hospital will also contribute specialized and complex services.
“This new building will primarily be for providing high-end, in-patient care,” Varma said. “This includes cancer care, care for patients with heart disease and stroke [and] patients who have undergone transplants.”
Thomas Jackiewicz, the CEO and senior vice president of Keck Medicine of USC, is optimistic that the new hospital will implement emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. He envisions a hospital that will incorporate these technologies in treatments while making patients feel comfortable and at home.
“The challenge is making sure we plan this hospital for the future,” Jackiewicz said. “[That means] taking in new technologies and really thinking about the totality of the experience of the patient coming in.”
Jackiewicz also believes that the hospital can increase access to health care for low-income groups who live near USC. One of his priorities is to ensure that Keck benefits the local community.
“Today, 20 percent of Keck patients are on the Medi-Cal program,” Jackiewicz said. “It’s not about insurance — it’s about being a resource and being committed to the community.”
However, construction on the hospital will likely not begin until 2020. According to the California Health Care Foundation, organizations must first go through a planning phase, including a needs assessment, blueprint and budget for the hospital. Then, the project will undergo a design phase, in which the organization will finalize designs and submit drawings and specifications for official approval and a building permit. Once the project has been approved by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the permit has been granted, bidding for the construction contract can start.
“Our first steps are to get a good idea of the site location, services that we want to give, modeling the impact [of the hospital] and looking at the projected demographic changes in Los Angeles,” Jackiewicz said. “We want to be a hospital that focuses on Los Angeles and the Southwest: We want to meet the needs of our community.”
Some aspiring doctors are excited about the learning opportunities a new hospital will bring. One such individual is Scott Valena, a sophomore majoring in human biology who is interested in applying to the Keck School of Medicine.
“I think that it’s very noteworthy that USC is continuing to improve the future of healthcare with the development of this new hospital,” Valena said. “With so many advances in medical and surgical techniques, it’s important to have facilities that are capable of providing the highest level of care for high priority patients.”