Several years ago, objections by Fairmont General Hospital delayed the eventual construction of United Hospital Center in Clarksburg by three years.
"Every month of delay increases the likelihood of patients having to leave the state for care," McClymonds said. "It also makes the project more expensive, which could put some crucial segments of the expansion at risk."
The plan calls for adding 139 patient beds, including 15 in the neonatal intensive care unit of WVU Children's Hospital. While overall deliveries are down in West Virginia, the number of high-risk deliveries is rising. They now account for about 70 percent of all WVU Hospitals births.
Obstetrics is one area where the two hospitals compete, and Mon General has a pending certificate-of-need request for a proposed $6 million expansion of its unit. McClymonds said WVU is not challenging it.
The WVU Hospitals plan also calls for expansion of the emergency department and the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, new space for the morgue and renovations of clinical lab space.
McClymonds contends the need is clear: Lack of bed space forced WVU Hospitals to close and delay access to stable patients for the equivalent of 80 days last year.
West Virginia has high rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and other conditions, and the need for care is only growing as the population ages, McClymonds said. Last year, WVU Hospitals treated nearly 30,000 patients.
"The new tower is absolutely necessary to meet the ever-increasing demand for our services," he said.
The expansion would be the largest construction project since Ruby Memorial Hospital was built in the 1980s.
It would also be a major source of economic development for north-central West Virginia, creating an estimated 750 jobs across WVU Healthcare, which includes WVU Hospitals and University Health Associates.
"We see nothing but good coming from this project -- more beds to treat more patients, more specialty physicians and health-care professionals, more jobs," McClymonds said.