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Construction to the six floors being added to the of the main building at the Ochsner medical campus on Jefferson Highway can be seen behind the skybridge in Jefferson, La., Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Ochsner is expanding their operations on three campuses in the area.

Advocate staff photo by MAX BECHERER

Construction crews have begun working on an expansion of the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center that will double the size of the facility at Ochsner Medical Center on Jefferson Highway.

The work, funded by a $20 million donation by the Bensons, is part of a massive $360 million Ochsner expansion that was first announced in 2015 and currently is underway for the state’s largest nonprofit health care system.

Ochsner treats about 600,000 people per year at its East Jefferson campus, which straddles both sides of Jefferson Highway east of Deckbar Avenue. It is now adding seven floors to its eight-story main building, the West Tower, on the south side of Jefferson Highway.

Ochsner Health unveils massive upcoming projects at, near main campus; see renderings

Ochsner employs 6,600 people there now, and the work is expected to add another 3,200 over the next 10 years, Ochsner spokeswoman Giselle Hecker said.

Jefferson Parish officials say the expansion will be a boon for the surrounding area.

“The development of that corridor is going to enhance the neighborhood tremendously,” Parish Councilman Paul Johnston said. “We see that becoming a vibrant area with the development of the hospital.”

The Benson Cancer Center, which opened in 2010 on the south end of the campus, near River Road, will get an additional 100,000 square feet on five new floors. This will allow for more than 26 personalized and semi-private patient chemo infusion stations plus dedicated infusion and clinic spaces for bone-marrow transplant patients, Ochsner said in a news release.

Warner Thomas, the company's president and chief executive officer, said the expansion of the Benson Center will help Ochsner “treatment options and clinical trials not available anywhere else.”

The expansion also will include a patient wellness space, which will include areas dedicated to yoga, meditation, patient education and support groups. Future plans include massage and acupuncture services, a cosmetic and wig boutique, and food and beverage options.

Ochsner would not say when the expansion will be completed, but when it is, the Lieselotte Tansey Breast Center, now on the north side of Jefferson Highway, will move in.

At the main hospital building, the additional stories will be completed by the summer. Six of the seven new floors will be used to treat patients and one for maintenance equipment.

Ochsner will move its outpatient diagnostic imaging services from that building to a new one underway on the north side of Jefferson Highway, near its Primary Care and Wellness Center and its academics building.

Ochsner has said that the $104 million addition to the West Tower will raise the inpatient capacity at Ochsner’s main campus from about 600 to nearly 770.

The north side of Jefferson also includes the Ochsner Hospital for Children and will be the future home of the Michael R. Boh Center for Child Development, the first phase of which will be completed next year.

Ochsner is also expanding to the west, having taken over the former Jefferson Plaza shopping center. There, Ochsner is completing a five-story, $56 million rehabilitation hospital in conjunction with Select Medical Corp. That building will open in the spring to treat patients rehabilitating from trauma, strokes, neurosurgery and orthopedic procedures.

Ochsner also has plans for a $6 million outpatient clinic for physical and occupational therapy and for retail space, though work has not begun on those yet.

Johnston said there has been an uptick in commercial real estate in the area. “People are interested in buying property," he said. "There are a lot of restaurant people looking.”

The challenge for the parish, he said, will be to handle the increased traffic around the Ochsner campuses. He said the parish is working to open a road off of Earhart Boulevard near the Lowe’s home improvement store just inside the parish line to help reduce traffic on the southern end of Causeway Boulevard.

Jefferson Parish to use future sales tax revenue for improvements around Ochsner campuses

“We’ve got to get other ways to get in and out of that area,” he said.

The parish has created an economic development district around the Ochsner sites and plans to use some of the additional tax revenue from businesses in the district to fund infrastructure repairs. 

It applied last year for an $18 million federal grant to make transportation infrastructure improvements in the area but failed to receive it.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.