Orange County Economic Development

UNC Hospitals planning $177M surgical tower on campus

From the Triangle Business Journal – 7/26/16 – Jason deBruyn (Staff Writer)


The campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will get a little more crowded as UNC Health Care has plans for a new surgical tower right in the heart of the medical campus.UNC leaders are in the early stages of planning a six-story, 150,000-square-foot tower that will house a substantial portion of the surgery and related services offered at the medical center. The project has an estimated $177 million budget, though final details are in flux.

The medical campus has grown significantly since the main hospital building – called Memorial Hospital – opened in 1952. The new surgical tower would be built directly in front of Memorial, becoming one of the main faces of the campus as patients and their families drive to the hospital or walk across the foot bridge that connects the hospital buildings to the parking deck (see map below).

Since building the operating rooms in Memorial Hospital decades ago, surgeries have grown more complex and more surgeons and other hospital personnel are now present during a surgery. The new surgical tower would house larger operating rooms with modern bells and whistles.

UNC Health Care executives first considered the back of Memorial Hospital for the new tower, though that would have posed a considerable impediment to operations. So executives decided to locate the new tower in the front of the hospital instead.

While many of the surgical services would move to the new tower, UNC Health Care wouldn’t technically add any services – at least not yet. Health care is tightly regulated in North Carolina, and hospitals are restricted by state regulators on how many operating rooms they may have. There are no current plans for additional operating room licenses in Orange County, so any operating room UNC wants to put in the new tower would mean it has to shutter an existing operating room.

Separately, the state has determined a need for another 71 beds in Orange County next year, and UNC Health Care will almost certainly apply for those beds. In addition, UNC Hospitals just received regulatory approval for a $100 million project to renovate the main campus and add to the Hillsborough campus. This project will add 29 acute care beds and bring UNC Hospitals’ to 890 licensed acute care beds.

The state legislature recently approved UNC issuing up to $250 million in new bonds, which UNC Medical Center President Gary Park says will primarily fund the surgical tower.

UNC Hospitals planning 177M Surgical tower on campus