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State backs plans for operating rooms

Baystate Franklin says construction on new $23M building could begin in fall

A draft drawing of the new Baystate Franklin Medical Center surgery building.
(Submitted image)

A draft drawing of the new Baystate Franklin Medical Center surgery building. (Submitted image)

GREENFIELD — Baystate Franklin Medical Center passed a major hurdle in its efforts to enable area residents to receive more health care services close to home in Greenfield and recruit additional physicians to the region.

The Massachusetts Public Health Council approved the hospital’s request for determination of need to support its plan to replace and renovate the current operating rooms. The state is required to review all proposed hospital projects that cost at least $14.5 million.

The approval allows the hospital to move forward in its $23 million construction project that would build a new 23,000-square-foot building at the intersection of Beacon and North streets.

The next step is funding the project. The hospital plans to pay for the new building through a combination of borrowing, equity from Baystate Health, and community support. The hospital plans to reach out to the community for financial support in a campaign, but it has not yet determined how much it will ask for and when. Hospital officials say they are confident they can acquire the necessary money.

If funding is secured, patients can expect to be treated in the facilities by spring 2016. Construction is anticipated to start in the fall.

The project would replace the existing operating rooms that were originally built in 1974 and allow for space for modern equipment.

“It’s going to revamp our facility into a state-of-the-art 21st-century building,” said hospital President Steven Bradley. “Going forward, we will be in a strong position that will benefit our patients. We will be able to attract the strongest and most capable surgeons that a community hospital can attract.”

The expansion project would allow the hospital to upgrade the operating rooms and bring in modern equipment — most pieces are too large for the existing rooms — which in turn attracts skilled physicians to the hospital.

“Surgeons know they will be able to use all of their skills in state-of-the-art surgical facilities,” Bradley said. “Surgeons are in high demand. To be able to recruit them, we need to have a facility that is current and attractive for physicians to practice.”

As part of the construction, the hospital is obligated by the state to give out $228,921 a year for five years in grants toward community health improvement projects in the Franklin County/North Quabbin region. The hospital’s community benefits advisory council and its community partners have not determined which programs will get a slice of the money, but one area being eyed for a grant could help address the current opioid crisis, Bradley said.

The new building would be constructed on vacant hospital property that is adjacent to the current surgical building. The two buildings would be separated by a strip of land and connected by a corridor.

The hospital would replace four of its existing operating rooms and renovate one remaining operating room, according to Daren M. Gray, the project manager and engineer at the hospital. It would then construct four larger operating rooms and convert the former four rooms into space for endoscopy — services in which the doctor looks inside the body.

In addition to the operating rooms, the new building would include pre-operation and recovery rooms, a loading dock and waiting area.

The average size of the operating rooms would increase from 450 to 650 square feet and the total space from the waiting room to the operating room will double from 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. The goal is to enhance patient privacy and comfort. The post-operative rooms would also get solid walls to that effect.

Turning point

The project marks a turning point in the hospital in its goal to meet community expectations.

“One of the things we heard very clearly during the nurse contract negotiations is the community wanted to ensure that the hospital remained a full-service community hospital,” Bradley said. “It was a demand from the community. This will enable us to far better meet that expectation.”

“The hospital is really owned by the people of Franklin County,” Bradley said. “We’re a tax-exempt nonprofit. We exist for the purpose of providing necessary and needed community hospital services to the residents of the county.”

With the promise of new operating rooms, the hospital has already been attracting talented physicians and reversing the downward trend in its volume of surgeries.

Between fiscal years 2012 and 2014, there was a 32 percent reduction in the amount of surgical minutes. The hospital, however, is projecting there to be at least a 10 percent increase in surgery time from patients returning to the hospital for next year, Bradley said.

In line with that goal is Baystate Health’s plan to bring speciality services from Springfield to Greenfield where appropriate, Bradley said. Some surgeons will now come up to Franklin County to perform surgeries one to two days a week.

“One of the things I feel strongly about is people in Franklin County deserve the same level of care that people at community hospitals all over the state get. We don’t want people to feel the need to travel to another hospital far away from home,” Bradley said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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