Baystate Gets Green Light for $239 Million Expansion Project

SPRINGFIELD — Mark Tolosky says it’s a day “we will remember for generations.”

That would be Nov. 14, when the state’s Public Health Council gave Baystate Medical Center, which Tolosky serves as president and CEO, the green light for a massive $239 million expansion project that will add 48 beds and replace another 78 in its first phase and eventually replace nearly 200 beds when finished.

The day was memorable, Tolosky told The Healthcare News, not merely because of the unanimous vote of the board, but because of the support shown for the ambitious undertaking before the vote. It came from politicians, including Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan and Mayor-elect Domenic Sarno, and also community and business leaders, neighborhood councils, and even construction trade organizations. All of them said the project would be good for Baystate, but especially good for the community it serves.

The events of the day even provided what Tolosky called a “civics lesson” for several Springfield high school students who were invited to the session to observe as part of one of many programs Baystate runs in conjunction with city schools.

With the council’s vote behind them, Baystate administrators are now focusing on the many steps that have to be taken for the planned start of construction (currently set for the summer of 2009) to go as scheduled.

“This is a very complex project with a lot of moving parts,” said Tolosky. “We’re gratified by the enormous amount of support we’ve received — it’s energized us for all the hard work that remains. We’re really just getting started.”

Plans call for construction of nearly 600,000 square feet of new space in the form of a multi-level addition. Phase one of what is being dubbed the “hospital of the future” will include 48 new beds — 18 adult medical-surgical beds and 30 adult critical-care beds — replacement of 78 beds in the so-called East Wing, built in 1956, and construction of a new emergency department.

There will also be 295,000 square feet of empty shell space that will be filled over the course of at least the next decade, said Tolosky, noting that when and how that space is built out will be functions of need and available capital.

The 48 additional licensed beds are designed to decompress the waiting and backlog in the medical center’s emergency department, said Tolosky, adding that 78 of the 183 beds in the East Wing will be replaced in phase one, and the rest over time.

“This facility is more than 50 years old, and it’s in dire need of replacement,” he said of the East Wing. “We can ‘t afford to do everything in that first phase; it’s just too daunting financially. Some of that future replacement in existing the East Wing will have to wait for a future time when we can afford to incrementally build out that space.”

Prospects for that empty space became a point of concern, especially for officials at Mercy Medical Center, who initially opposed Baystate’s plans based on belief that the so-called shell space would be used for additional beds. This confusion was clarified before and at the Nov. 19 hearing, and Mercy eventually dropped its opposition.

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