Dignity Health’s president on July 1 announced that her organization remains on pace to open its replacement hospital in Elk Grove as early as 2026, despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was made by Phyllis Baltz, president of Dignity’s Methodist Hospital, Sacramento, during a virtual town hall meeting with Elk Grove City Council Member Darren Suen.

“We anticipate opening in 2026 to 2027,” she said after outlining the plan for the hospital.

“We are still on schedule. We are very proud of our plans to open the first hospital serving (the) Elk Grove community.”

The $320 million hospital will be built on Dignity’s 28-acre medical campus on Wymark Drive, south of Elk Grove Boulevard. It will replace the current, 48-year-old Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, which is located near Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.

Dignity’s future four-story, 200,000-square-foot,100-bed hospital will be built on its Elk Grove campus, which borders The Ridge Shopping Center and the Costco Wholesale store. That property already includes Dignity’s three-story medical office building.

Baltz mentioned that Dignity has continuously made efforts to ensure hospital capacity at its south Sacramento hospital in response to COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.

“In March, we did a lot of preparation to make sure we had capacity, because no one knew exactly what the impacts would be with volume,” she said. “And we took a lot of measures, including canceling elective surgeries to ensure capacity in the hospital.”

Baltz added that the hospital has resumed its surgeries while maintaining its capacities.

“We are admitting patients and we do have the capacity,” she said. “We have started our surgeries again. These are procedures that patients need, so we need to respond to all needs of the community.

“So, we’re balancing meeting the surgical needs of our community and also having capacity in our emergency department, in our (intensive care unit) and our (medical surgery) units, and also our family birth center, where we see positive COVID(-19) patients coming in.”

With increases in COVID-19 cases, safety remains the top priority, Baltz noted.

“We definitely are seeing those (COVID-19) volumes come up, but we are well prepared for that, and we have addressed all safety precautions that we can, because no matter what we do, safety is number one,” she said.

Baltz reflected on Dignity’s public unveiling of its hospital plan on Jan. 8 and noted that the organization spent the past year preparing the feasibility for the beds and needs of the hospital.

“Based on the population of Elk Grove, the trends on hospital admissions and the demographics of the population, our plan is for a 100-bed community-based, full-service hospital,” she said. “That doesn’t preclude us from continuing to expand and grow the project over time.

“The good news is that we’re fully entitled, so we have all the approvals necessary up to over 300 beds in total. So, this is Phase 1 and as the community continues to grow, we will grow with the community.”

Baltz mentioned that Dignity plans to engage its staff, as well as the community, through future public forums about the design process.

“We will be doing this more, where we’re out in the community talking about our plans, sharing information and gaining input,” she said. “Our next step is selecting the design-build firm and then spending 2021 in developing the construction documents to submit to California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

Baltz explained Dignity’s confidence in its plan to open its Elk Grove hospital as early as 2026.

“When you have land, you have entitlements,” she said. “It’s typically a seven-year process to design, submit the plans, build, secure licensing and then start your operations.

“And that’s seen across the state of California. Hospital Council Association information will show you the general timeline is seven to 10 years. We believe we’re about six to seven years from opening.”