State OKs New Surgical Building at Gardner Hospital

State officials on Wednesday gave a green light to Heywood Hospital’s nearly $38 million plan to build a new, freestanding surgical pavilion to replace an existing surgical suite that hospital officials said has been largely unchanged since it was built in 1961. The Public Health Council unanimously signed off on Heywood’s determination of need application for the 40,115-square-foot addition that will feature six new, larger operating rooms and 21 pre- and post-procedure rooms. The Department of Public Health’s determination of need program vets proposed hospital expansions, mergers and changes in ownership. A 134-bed community hospital in Gardner, Heywood experienced a 20 percent growth in surgical procedure case volume from 2016 to 2018, according to its application. The expansion will allow more patients to undergo their procedures locally, the application said, reducing the number of referrals to higher-cost care sites and easing transportation barriers for patients in north central Massachusetts. “Lack of transportation options is a major issue in the Service Area. The lack of transportation options inhibits access to jobs, childcare, and healthcare,” the application said. “Some patients, particularly elderly, disabled, and mentally ill patients, are dependent on their caregivers’ schedules to get to necessary appointments because public transportation is inadequate.” Elder Affairs Secretary Elizabeth Chen, who serves on the council, told hospital representatives she wanted to commend them “for modernizing your facilities.” “As I recall reading, this is a high public-payer hospital, and so when I read that the facilities haven’t been modernized since 1960, this needs to be done,” Chen said. “This allows for patients, it allows for your population to remain in community…it gives people access to a modern facility and modern surgical techniques, and you are a high public-payer hospital, and thank you. Thank you for giving your populations that kind of access.” – Katie Lannan/SHNS