Salem Hospital (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Salem Hospital is planning a new seven-story, $235 million building expansion that will add 150 beds to its facility by 2022.

The project will help the hospital care for an aging population that’s expected to use more medical services, Salem Health Chief Financial Officer James Parr said. Seniors are about 20% of the population in the greater Salem area, but account for more than half of hospital stays.

In 2015, there were about 90,000 people over the age of 60 in the tri-county area Salem Hospital serves. By 2035, there will be about 130,000 based on population projections, Parr said, meaning they’ll need more beds, lab space and other services to provide care.

“That’s going to put a demand on all kinds of services in Marion and Polk county,” Parr said.

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Construction on the new tower will begin in January 2020, and the new tower will begin housing patients in the summer of 2022.

The expansion will be on the east side of Building A, the Salem Hospital structure built in 2009 that houses the emergency room. With about 110,000 visits annually over the past few years, according to state data, it’s the busiest single emergency room on the West Coast.

That building was constructed with future expansion in mind, Parr said, and has an elevator bank on the east side where the new tower would join the existing structure.

“We always knew we were going to get to this point,” Parr said.

The space is currently a flat parking lot for staff and emergency room patients and visitors. Salem Health will dedicate the first floor of its covered parking structure to emergency room patients and visitors, and is looking for ways to shuttle staff to the hospital from a satellite lot during construction, Parr said.

The new tower will be on the east side of Building A, where a parking lot currently sits. (Courtesy/Salem Health)

The seven-story structure will house 30 new beds on each of the top five floors. Initially, only four will open because Salem Hospital won’t need all 150 new beds immediately.

The ground and second floor will hold other services like labs and imaging that are still being worked out, Parr said. Their use will depend on where the hospital sees the biggest need for services.

Salem Health filed initial permits with the City of Salem in mid-July to begin work. The Oregon Health Authority reviewed the proposed expansion last December.

The hospital will fund the project through a mix of cash reserves and long-term debt financing.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.