Maine Medical Center will seek city and state approval for changes to its expansion plan to get more patient beds in service sooner, the Portland hospital said Tuesday.

Hospital officials want to expand the facility’s bed license from 637 to 700 beds and accelerate the construction schedule for one floor of the planned Malone Family Tower on Congress Street to add 32 new beds in 2024, they said in a news release.

“The need for getting additional beds online sooner is extremely apparent,” said Jeff Sanders, president of Maine Medical Center, in the release. “(The hospital) consistently sees record inpatient census levels and the medical severity of the cases has increased, as has the average length of stay.”

That means demand is exceeding Maine Med’s initial projections, Sanders said, and “the pandemic has added to that challenge significantly.”

Maine Med said it will also build a new sterile processing department on the sixth floor of the Malone Family Tower, which will allow more efficient movement of surgical supplies because it will be above new operating rooms and adjacent to the existing operating rooms in the hospital’s L.L. Bean building.

In its initial plans, the sterile processing department wasn’t going to be replaced, but Maine Med said the new department will double the size of the existing facility and meet growing demand for surgical procedures at the hospital.

Sanders said it’s important to make desired changes to the plans now, with construction in its early stages. Maine Med is owned and operated by MaineHealth, the state’s largest private health care system.

The changes will add about $52 million to the cost of expanding and modernizing the hospital, bringing the total cost to $588.4 million, Maine Med officials said, and also add about six months to the construction schedule.

The Malone Family Tower, built where the former employee garage had been located, is expected to open in 2023 and the sterile processing department will be ready in 2024, if city and state officials approve the changes.

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