Health Care with Palm Trees

September 28, 1994

The new nine-story Gudelsky patient tower at the University of Maryland Medical Center at Lombard and Greene streets shows how hospitals are beginning to look more and more like luxury hotels.

Glass elevators whiz visitors over the atrium's palm and olive trees. Patient rooms are done in designer colors. Virtually all jTC rooms are private and have views of the downtown, including Camden Yards ballpark. Each floor has a conference room as well as a service desk equipped to make restaurant reservations and travel arrangements.

Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president and chief executive of the medical system, says these touches are warranted by increasing competition among health care providers. "We believe we are in the retail business of health care delivery," he opines.

The Gudelsky tower will be commissioned in sections over the next several months. It is a focal point of dramatic growth and changes that have been taking place in recent years at UniversityCenter, a hub of University of Maryland-related medical institutions and professional schools.

According to Dr. David J. Ramsay, the university's new president, some 11,000 people work in UniversityCenter. Since the old University Hospital was privatized a decade ago, the area's institutions have spent more than $1 billion in construction and rehabilitation.

The Gudelsky tower is just one of several projects nearing completion. They include a $27 million health-science facility, a state-of-the-art biomedical research center and several smaller buildings. Next year, a $24 million information services building will rise across from Gudelsky.

UniversityCenter officials say that the current wave of expansion is likely to attract new private offices as well as scientific and laboratory facilities to the area. They talk about UniversityCenter one day stretching from the campus all the way to Charles Center, filling up buildings which are today vacant or underused.

This is an exciting prospect. Officials ought to also look into spreading UniversityCenter's energy to the residential neighborhoods across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A planned new townhouse community there is a promising sign that fits well with UniversityCenter's increasingly important role as a major downtown employer.

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