Expanding Health Care

As the region grows, so does the need for greater access to health care – a need that all three area health systems are striving to meet every day.
Sep 7, 2021
Heather Herron
Expanding Health Care

Whether you have a need for a family physician, a specialist or diagnostic services, chances are good that need can be met in Fort Wayne. The city’s three health care systems – Parkview Health, Lutheran Health Network and IU Health – are all working hard to make sure patients have convenient, quick access to quality care. Collectively, they are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into new facilities, programs and providers. 

IU Health, which has the largest network of physicians in the state of Indiana, first came to Fort Wayne in July of 2018 when it opened a primary care office and children’s specialty clinic. Since then, the system’s footprint has grown exponentially larger. Just this summer, IU Health opened a new location on Hope Drive, near the intersection of Stellhorn and Lahmeyer roads. A second facility combined two suites in Southgate Plaza, and there are already plans for further expansion there. Additionally, a newly constructed, 40,000 square foot surgical center at Aboite Center and Dicke roads houses five operating rooms and five procedure rooms. 

“We’re also actively working on plans to develop 137 acres at Airport Expressway and I-69 that we purchased. We’re going to start with a medical office building there and some other outpatient and ambulatory services. As we grow in the market, we will constantly evaluate what we’re going to do next,” says Brian Bauer, IU Health Fort Wayne’s president.

Lutheran Health Network also has several big projects underway, including the $45 million, 120-bed
Maple Heights Behavioral Health hospital on W. Washington Center Road. Lutheran Downtown Hospital, which will replace St. Joseph Hospital, is slated to open by the end of the year. Two facilities are opening soon in Auburn, as will a primary care clinic on Carroll and Lima Roads in early 2022. 

“Our viewpoint at Lutheran is we’re listening to the community and we’re responding to the community and what they’re telling us,” explains Lutheran Hospital CEO Brady Dubois. “That’s what is driving our decision making.” Patient demand is what prompted the development of a medically integrated health and fitness center, Optimum Performance Sports, on the Dupont Hospital campus. The 99,000 square foot building will be home to an athletic performance training center, exercise equipment, spin and yoga classes, an indoor track, physical therapy, and a Fort Wayne Orthopedics office. It’s set to open this fall. 

Also new this fall is a partnership between Lutheran and Jersey College, which is a dedicated nursing school. Twenty students will begin the six-semester program located on Lutheran’s main campus on Jefferson Boulevard. “It’s a top-tier educational environment with phenomenal skills labs so that they’re going to gain all the knowledge, skills and abilities to take care of the community at large,” Dubois says.

At the same time the nursing program begins at Lutheran, Parkview is introducing a graduate medical education (GME) program, better known as a physician’s residency. When fully developed, the three-year internal medicine program will train 45 physician residents, and the five-year general surgery program will train 20 physician residents. The programs will be based at Parkview Randallia, increasing access to care for people living in surrounding neighborhoods.

In addition to recruiting more highly skilled nurses and physicians to the area, leaders hope both the Jersey College/Lutheran partnership and Parkview’s GME program will help boost the local economy. “We’re bringing more people to work here and hopefully stay here with their families. That’s definitely a motivating factor for us as well. The other thing to remember is there’s all this support staff that we have to have in place, and we’ve already hired some of those people,” says Parkview SVP Gary Zwierzynski.

“One of our physician leaders in Parkview said it very well by saying,

‘We cannot recruit our way out of the physician shortage in this region.’ There’s a lot of data that doctors tend to stay where they trained in their residency,” adds Dr. Susan Steffy, the clinical leader of the program and chief medical officer at Parkview Randallia.

Administrators at all three health systems in northeast Indiana agree that when there’s more competition in a market, patients benefit by having more choices and greater access to care. That, after all, is why the hospital systems here. 

“We’re dedicated and committed to ensuring that we can meet the needs that folks have expressed time and time again,” Dubois says.

“We are pleased with the growth we’ve seen, indicating we’ve been able to provide access to great levels of care and service to more people in the area,” says Bauer. 

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