CHICAGO -- A report released yesterday by Cook County, Ill., recommends that the county's aging hospital be demolished and replaced with a new, bond-financed $570 million facility.

The report, drafted by the consulting firm of Bobrow/Thomas and Associates, said that building a new 464-bed hospital would cost less than renovating the old 930-bed facility. The new hospital would be built within a block of the old one, which is located about a mile west of Chicago's downtown.

Richard Phelan, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, said that the amount of bonds that could be issued for the project will probably be decided within the next eight to 12 months.

Robert Peller, a partner at Coopers & Lybrand, which worked on a preliminary feasibility study for the county released last November, estimated that the county probably would issue less than $558 million of bonds to finance construction of the new hospital.

Including financing costs, the county could end up paying about $1.3 billion for the project, Peller said.

The $570 million price tag includes $316.5 million for construction, $22 million for demolition and relocation, $118.6 million for equipment and furnishings, and $108.2 million for design, consulting, and other costs.

Issuing bonds for the facility would not require a property tax increase, partly due to the retirement of old bonds, according to Maureen Hartigan, a spokeswoman for Phelan.

Phelan said that the bonds could be issued by the end of next year if the project is approved by the county board and the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board. The board must approve any hospital construction projects costing more than $2.5 million.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on the project in late June after a series of public hearings, according to a press release. If approved by the board, the plan will be submitted to the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which is expected to take action in September, Phelan said.

The entire project would take six to seven years to complete, the report said. After a two-year design phase, the hospital would be built over a period of about four years.

Phelan said that the proposed hospital, once operating, would save the county about $440 million over five years, compared to the existing facility's operations costs. The county has spent $80 million over the past three years to maintain the hospital and meet accreditation standards, he said.

"This building is so dysfunctional that we're wasting money just basically keeping it from being disaccredited," Phelan said.

Ruth Rothstein, chief of the county's bureau of health and director of Cook County Hospital, said that the new facility would be the center of a cost-effective system that would withstand any changes in the health care environment.

Even under national health care reform, Cook County Hospital will still be needed to provide a safety net for poor and uninsured residents, the report said. In addition, the hospital would continue to provide services to treat trauma, burn injuries, and AIDS.

Though Phelan has spearheaded plans for a new county hospital during his term as county board president, he will not be in the office if the project is approved. Phelan did not run for re-election as county board president, opting instead to seek the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor.

Phelan lost the March primary to Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. In November, Cook County Commissioner John Stroger, a Democrat who is also chairman of the county board's finance committee, will face Joe Morris, a Republican, in the election for county board president.

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