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Hospital Health Clubs Help Improve Fiscal Condition, Too

September 14, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ To help improve their fiscal condition many hospitals have been turning to physical fitness centers.

About 150 hospital-affiliated centers have opened their doors in the last decade and the numbers continue to grow, according to the Association of Hospital Health and Fitness Centers.

″There’s a growing awareness that hospitals can provide fitness services ... to a large general public that will pay for it - and pay well,″ said John Greene, acting executive director of the Evanston, Ill.-based association.

Hospital clubs usually charge a one-time initiation fee, plus monthly dues ranging from about $35 to $70.

And forget the image of middle-aged cardiac rehab patients walking slowly on treadmills in drab hospital rooms.

Hospital health clubs feature the latest gadgets in fitness technology, from simulated rock-climbing walls to underwater cameras that analyze swim strokes.

The Tom Landry Sports Medicine and Research Center in Dallas, for example, is a 110,000-square-foot facility attached to a medical office building. Surrounding the center, which is part of the Baylor Health Care System, is a seven-acre park with a lagoon and two outdoor running tracks.

The St. Lawrence Hospital’s Michigan Athletic Club in East Lansing, Mich., has tennis and squash courts, two pools and a cardiovascular room at its new 165,000-square foot facility.

Experts say the reason for the boom in these facilities is simple: They improve the health of the general public as well as the hospital’s bottom line. That’s important in an industry in which 63 hosptials closed down in 1990 and 80 hospitals the previous year, according to American Hospital Association figures.

A survey of hospital-affiliated fitness centers by the Association of Hospital Health and Fitness Centers indicates that 90 percent of the centers with more than 20,000 square feet have a positive cash flow. Overall, about 70 percent of the 92 centers surveyed make money, said Greene, the acting director.

An added attraction is that the centers attract people who seek referrals to hospital services or affiliated physicians, Greene said.

The hospital-affiliated centers frequently require physical exams before members can begin working out. Many offer services such as individualized work-out plans.

Cholesterol screenings, dietary programs, classes for pregnant women and cardiac rehabilitation programs also are common at many of the centers.

In addition, the hospitals often use the centers to augment patient care. The Landry Center in Dallas, for example, offers exercise classes to adolescent psychiatric patients during off-hours, said Baylor Vice President Galen Johnson.

″This tells the public and insurance companies that Baylor’s in-patient adolescent hospital has more to offer,″ Johnson said.

At St. Lawrence Hospital, officials saw the Michigan Athletic Club as a way to shore up sagging business.

″We have seen a major shift towards out-patient care in Lansing,″ said Stephen Robbins, hospital senior vice president. ″Our business in a traditional sense has dried up.

″So when your business dries up on in-patient and goes toward out-patient, you adjust your delivery system to the 21st century.″

Robbins said he expects the center, which opened in late January, to begin making a profit early next year.

At the Wellness Center in Tupelo, Miss., affiliated with the North Mississippi Medical Center, officials say they’re already making money.

″With 2,700 members, I think it really was, from a marketing standpoint, one of the best things we could do,″ said Gary Friestad, director of health promotion for the center.

End Adv AMs Saturday, Sept. 14

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