May 24, 2022

Empty Shopping Malls Are Being Converted into Medical Centers

Empty Shopping Malls Are Being Converted into Medical Centers

Over the past 3 years, countless retail stores have gone out of business. As a result, numerous shopping malls have been left vacant. Medical providers are opening healthcare facilities and dental offices in open stores on major city streets and moving into malls and shopping centers in suburban and rural areas. While this might seem slightly unconventional, it is providing medical and dental care to countless patients. 

“The retailization of healthcare has really exploded,” said Barrie Scardina, a retail expert for Cushman & Wakefield.

Inova Health System will turn the former Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia, into a $2 billion hospital including an emergency room and trauma center. In Helena, Montana Capital Hill Mall is currently being redeveloped by Benefis Health System with primary care and specialty clinics. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is planning to purchase the site of the former Global Mall, over 600,000 square feet, at the Crossings in Antioch, Tennessee. 

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“We are excited about the potential to redevelop this property as a destination option for health care services for the residents of Antioch and the surrounding area. I want to acknowledge the integral role that Metro, including Mayor John Cooper and his team, along with the Metro Council, has played in this process. The mall’s location in Southeast Davidson County will make VUMC more accessible to one of Tennessee’s fastest-growing and most diverse populations, advancing our mission of making health care personal,” said Jeff Balser, MD, Ph.D., President, and CEO of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Image via Alexandra Living Magazine

CVS started opening retail locations in 2005 and now has over 1,100 locations nationwide. Other major health companies, as well as private practices, are following the trend. Why? Malls and other retail spaces are perfect because of their location and built-in parking for patients. These offices also allow for patients to not have to venture to major cities or to main campuses as this can be difficult depending on the patient’s age, disease, and transportation factors. 

Vanderbilt has previously tapped into this market and with great success. One Hundred Oaks shopping center was converted and started seeing patients there more than a decade ago. The shopping complex has 22 specialty clinics.

“Most of these hospitals are in areas where there’s just no room to grow. And if you do, it’s so expensive,” said Andrew McDonald, a former hospital administrator who leads healthcare consulting for LBMC. “These buildings are old. They’re antiquated. They’re very expensive to maintain.”

What Does This Mean For Nurses?

With the influx of practices and healthcare systems opening private clinics and major trauma centers in dominant retail spaces, the need for nurses and ancillary healthcare workers is going to substantially increase. This is great for the healthcare industry. But, the real question is - where are they going to find the nurses?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030. This is significantly faster than most other occupations. It’s predicted that on average 194,500 openings per year for nurses. 

After talking to over 1,500 nurses, Nurse.Org found that the number might actually be much much higher. Nurses are leaving the bedside at an accelerated rate. There was already a shortage of nurses in some areas of the country, especially underserved populations and rural communities, but the ongoing pandemic only furthered this. The American Nurses Association (ANA) reports that the increased need for nurses spans beyond the current pandemic. In fact, they sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on September 1, 2021, urging the country to declare the current and unsustainable nurse staffing shortage to be a national crisis.

Hospitals, local communities, and state governments are developing plans on a local and state level to help alleviate the ongoing shortage of not only nurses but also certified nursing assistants (CNAs). 

Baptist Health, University of Kentucky Medical Center, and Saint Joseph Hospitals in Lexington, Kentucky have teamed together to fund a $250,000 grant. 30 students will receive a fully paid, intense eight-week training course at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and become CNAs. So far 169 people have shown interest in the program. Upon successful completion of the program, each hospital will offer 10 students full-time employment. 

“It is a start as we all have identified this as a need for all three hospitals,” said Lynette Walker, Human Resources at Baptist Hospital. 

The ongoing nursing shortage has been heavily discussed with many organizations and even the federal government trying to combat the problem. However, the ongoing shortage of ancillary staff is just as crippling. The BLS reports that the job outlook for nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030 with an average of ​​192,800 job openings per year. 

Retail healthcare will have the ability to create endless opportunities for healthcare workers but it begs the question - where will they find the staff?

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