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Hospital to build new operating rooms

Recorder/Paul Franz
Possible new operating room site at northwest side of the BFMC.

Recorder/Paul Franz Possible new operating room site at northwest side of the BFMC.

GREENFIELD — By summer 2015, Baystate Franklin Medical Center may be treating patients in new, larger operating rooms — which would provide more space for surgeries and could help the Greenfield hospital recruit and retain physicians.

Baystate Franklin is in the planning stages of a $22 million to $24 million construction project that would erect a new 23,000-square-foot building on the corner of Beacon and North streets. The two-story building would include four operating rooms (about 44 percent bigger than current rooms, at a size of 650 square feet each), pre-operation and recovery rooms, a loading dock and potential space for other medical services.

Hospital officials say the project will replace operating rooms that are nearly 40 years old and far too small to be effective. Representatives from both the local nurses union and the Community Health Care Initiative praised the project as a much-needed step in the right direction toward keeping local medical care in Franklin County.

According to hospital President Chuck Gijanto, 90 percent of Baystate Franklin’s surgeries are done on an outpatient basis. Advances in technology allow for smaller incisions and faster recovery times.

But the current operating rooms were built in 1975, a time before surgeries used pieces of complex and sophisticated equipment that today take up a lot of space, said Gijanto. He hopes the new building, even during the planning and construction phases, will bring in new surgeons who may otherwise have been put off by the hospital’s 450-square-foot operating rooms.

“It’s really sort of a chicken or egg thing with the doctors. It’s going to be really hard to recruit until we have (new) ORs,” said Gijanto.

“Until now, you bring a surgeon through for a site visit and they look at the ORs, and you can just kind of see the reaction to them,” he said. “We can start sharing (the construction plan) with physician candidates and that will help us attract more of them as well and retain them.”

Improving access to local care

The news comes during an ongoing public discussion about Franklin County residents’ access to local medical care.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, engaged in a nearly two-year contract dispute with the hospital, say that services are shifting to its parent, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. The group has organized forums and rallies to speak out against the trend, all while hospital officials deny that such a shift is occurring.

“I really do believe that Baystate has heard our community’s concerns. ... We’re very happy about this,” said Linda Judd, a leader of the local nurses union.

The Community Health Care Initiative, a group that formed after a union-organized community forum in March, has been calling for a new operating room space, said member Patti Williams.

The group is pleased to hear about the plans for the new space, and Williams said it was a step “toward reestablishing a full-service hospital.”

Nurses claim that Baystate Franklin has eliminated its visiting nurse services and reduced its urology, cardiovascular, lab and pediatric services.

Hospital officials counter that cardiovascular services are expanding and lab services have remained constant. Pediatric services are decreasing at community hospitals across the country, they said, and the visiting nurse service was cut nine years ago because there wasn’t enough of a market to sustain it.

Gijanto said they’re actively recruiting for one or two urologists, an additional gastroenterologist and an additional orthopedic surgeon.

Construction plans

If Baystate Health and the state’s department of public health approve the project later this year, construction could begin as early as next spring and will likely take between 12 and 15 months.

The new building would be constructed on vacant hospital property that had once housed the school of nursing and medical offices.

It would be adjacent to the current surgical building, which would be renovated to include a backup operating room and space for endoscopy — procedures where doctors look inside the body. One room would specifically be used for bronchoscopy, the inside look at a patient’s lungs.

The hospital has endoscopy suites now, but this move will bring them closer to where the surgeries are happening. The post-operative spaces will also see an improvement as there will be solid walls separating patients from one another, instead of curtain dividers.

The two buildings will be separated by a small strip of land and connected by one corridor. Gijanto said that the hospital considered having them right next to each other, but this plan would have cost about $17 million more. Having the two buildings abut would mean additional infrastructure and code requirements that the hospital would have had to meet.

Gijanto said that the hospital has been discussing new operating rooms for four years, but planning picked up during the past six months. Steffian Bradley Architects, a Boston-based company that worked on the new Baystate Medical Center emergency department, is the project’s architect.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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