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Douglas County considering healthcare collaboration with UNMC on major project

Posted at 6:56 PM, Dec 21, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The University of Nebraska Medical Center campus is expected to massively change over the next decade.

The NeXt project, which is coordinated with the federal government, plans to expand the campus by one-third and increase UNMC’s budget by $1 billion annually.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey Gold used aspirational and ambitious language in describing the NeXt project to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

“This is about how we build a transformational model for the future of health and the future of caring for our community,” said Gold.

The project that UNMC is preparing will be $3.45 billion with the federal government footing the bill for nearly half — a total of $1.65 billion.

Gold politely asked Douglas County to get involved as well.

The planned project would make UNMC a joint medical facility for civilians and the military in preparation for a pandemic or natural disaster.

The U.S. government has set up regional pilot programs to respond to hazardous global events. The UNMC campus would be set up as the coordination center for all pilot programs.

The facility would also likely house a new inpatient Veterans Affairs hospital.

It would bring more research funding, thousands of new jobs and build new facilities that can replace some of the campus’s aging infrastructure.

“The configuration of the campus is unfriendly to students, staff, faculty, patients, visitors and others. To this day I still need breadcrumbs to make sure I don’t get lost,” said Gold.

Along with the federal government's funding, the State of Nebraska has pledged $300 million, the City of Omaha is chipping in $93 million; Gold says private philanthropy is expected to take care of another $700 million with $438 million of that amount already raised.

While the board liked the project, commissioners seemed reluctant to guarantee such a large sum of money, but they have interest in a mental health facility that UNMC could house.

“The mental health is a big priority of this county board and I think a partnership is something we need to be involved in,” said Commissioner P.J. Morgan.

Commissioner Roger Garcia wants more details from Gold on what can be done for the county’s mental health services before he can get on board.

“That would really kind of make the pitch more of an enticing, make more sense rationally to me, knowing our budget is quite limited,” said Garcia.

Gold says they’ll continue to talk outside the meeting about a possible collaboration.

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