On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, the Board of Directors for the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) announced its selection for a potential site of a new hospital for the community. The new hospital would replace the two inpatient campuses, Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare (FSLH) and St. Elizabeth Medical Center (SEMC). What follows is a series of questions and answers developed by the leadership of MVHS about the new plan. This information will be updated periodically.
A conceptual/draft drawing of what a MVHS hospital could look like in downtown Utica. >
Question and Answers – Completed on May 18, 2016
What steps is MVHS currently taking while the funding plan for the new hospital project is being completed?
- MVHS is moving forward with the appraisals of the downtown properties that will be impacted by the new hospital project. The health system is soliciting proposals from certified appraisers to evaluate the properties and a letter was mailed to downtown property owners informing them of the anticipated process and timeline.
- The property areas that will be appraised include several city blocks south of the Utica Memorial Auditorium, bounded by Oriskany Street to the north, properties abutting Columbia Street to the south and Broadway to the east as well as State Route 12 to the west. The mailing was sent to 39 owners representing 77 properties whose holdings comprise, along with City of Utica, approximately 25 acres.
- It is anticipated that the selection of a qualified appraisal firm will be completed in the next six weeks. Once the firm is selected, it will take approximately two months to complete the appraisals. Once the properties are appraised, MVHS officials or representatives will meet with each property owner to review the appraisal. The appraisal process and the offers that would follow will be contingent on New York State approval of a Certificate of Need (CON) for the new hospital.
- MVHS officials caution that there are multiple steps and approvals with the DOH before any offers can be made or any work can begin on the properties. Tentative plans include offers on the properties potentially by year end and any work on the sites would begin in late 2017 or early 2018. If property owners have any questions, they can contact Debra Altdoerffer at 315-624-5716 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question and Answers – Completed on April 4, 2016
What is the current status of the funding from New York State for the new hospital?
The $300 million that was earmarked to “create an integrated healthcare delivery system in Oneida County” has been restored in the new 2016-2017 New York State budget. We are deeply appreciative of the tireless work by our elected officials at the state, county and municipal levels who advocated restoring the funding. We are also very grateful that Governor Andrew Cuomo recognized and supported the restoration of funds for our area.
Has the new hospital location been finalized?
The new hospital will be built in downtown Utica. A study conducted by the Hammes Group has found that the cost to build downtown versus at the St. Luke’s Campus is comparable, making the downtown location financially viable.
What are the next steps for the project?
Next steps will include working with the New York State Department of Health on the process by which the state funds will be secured and earmarked for the project. We will also be finalizing the financial plan to secure additional funding for what we anticipate will be a $570 to $575 million project in downtown Utica. It is anticipated that MVHS will finance the remaining cost through borrowing, grant opportunities and philanthropy.
In the coming months community forums will be scheduled so we can gather input and feedback that will help the organization with the planning and development process. The organization will also begin the process of engaging an architectural firm to begin the design process.
Question and Answers – Completed on February 19, 2016
What has the Mohawk Valley Health System been doing to work towards a new hospital?
For the past ten months MVHS has been working with government agencies and privately owned companies to develop a plan to build a new hospital in our area. We engaged a nationally known consultant, Hammes Company, to provide a detailed cost analysis for the proposed new hospital and have been diligently working on the plan. The MVHS Board of Directors supports a downtown site location because it can be a catalyst for economic growth in our region and could help spur additional development as we embark on the area’s newest venture with nanotechnology.
During the last week of January, Scott Perra, president/CEO of MVHS, spoke at length with a senior official from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). Perra provided background information and a time line through 2015 on the new hospital initiative and what the health system has done in developing the plan. Additional meetings with elected officials and members of the NYSDOH are being planned.
What are the benefits of having one hospital in our community?
- A new hospital for our community brings with it a number of benefits. One hospital ensures our patients receive the appropriate care at one location. An example would be having trauma and stroke coverage at one site – right now trauma services are provided at SEMC and stroke services at FSLH. Currently, patients may arrive at SEMC who are experiencing a stroke and trauma victims may arrive at FSLH. While each facility can care for the patients – best practice is to have the patient triaged and cared for at the designated facility where staff is specially trained.
- One new hospital means all private patient rooms, which improves our infection prevention efforts, ensures greater patient privacy and higher patient satisfaction.
- In today’s environment many of our patients are moved on a daily basis because of bed need – whether it is to appropriately cohort female and male patients in shared rooms or to prevent the spread of disease from one infectious patient to another. Saving time on the movement of patients throughout the facilities gives our caregivers more time for direct patient care. Those are just a few examples.
Question and Answers – Completed on October 22, 2015
What led to the decision to build a new hospital?
Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center affiliated in 2014 to become the Mohawk Valley Health System. Our mission is to provide for excellence in healthcare for our communities. We have focused on consolidating existing resources, eliminating redundancies, expanding the depth and breadth of services, improving access and elevating the quality of healthcare services in the region. MVHS has been successful in its efforts thus far, but has been constrained by the age and physical limitations of our existing facilities. The decision to consolidate the two inpatient campuses to a single facility represents the logical progression of our efforts to achieve our mission and was spurred by several key factors:
- The desire and need to build a facility with the newest technology, services and advancements in patient safety and quality so that our community can receive the most up to date healthcare services that rivals those found in large cities.
- The growing demand for healthcare due to the rapidly increasing and aging population in this region.
- The increasing need to improve accessibility and availability by attracting specialists and providing services that otherwise would not be available to our community.
- The opportunity to gain greater operational efficiencies through the elimination of duplicative and redundant functions will help to reduce the rate of increase in healthcare spending and to achieve improved financial stability.
What process did the MVHS Board of Directors use to choose the downtown site?
- The Board worked with Mohawk Valley EDGE, ELAN Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture, PLLC and O’Brien & Gere, a firm that provided preliminary engineering, environmental review and energy consulting services for the project. Potential sites in a five to 10 mile radius from the City of Utica were examined. EDGE assists companies throughout Oneida County who are looking for potential sites or expanding their current operations. Their extensive background and knowledge was very helpful.
- The Board also engaged an independent consultant, Hammes Company, a firm that works with healthcare clients exclusively. Their expertise is helping MVHS to assess the needs of the new hospital including site requirements, facility planning, clinical operations, service and physician integration, and market assessment and development. Hammes conducted an analysis of the site and is currently developing a more detailed recommendation for the new hospital build.
- The Board also has a master list of criteria that a new site needs to meet including but not limited to infrastructure (water, sewer and power), access and a good transportation network. The site also has to have the capacity to fit the hospital operations and associated parking requirements.
- Twelve sites were reviewed with three sites meeting most of the criteria.
- The Board has been discussing the new hospital and a potential site for nearly a year. This summer it had two special meetings with the single topic of where best to site the new facility.
- After extensive review which included open, candid and robust debate, the Board chose the downtown site by a unanimous vote.
The MVHS Board of Directors will continue to explore the downtown option as long as it proves to be financially viable. If that is not the case a second site option is available – the St. Luke’s Campus of FSLH.
Who is on the MVHS Board of Directors?
The Board is comprised of 19 community members who are business owners, physicians and leaders of private and public institutions. Board members are not paid and volunteer their time to serve. They live and work in the community and their primary goal is providing exceptional healthcare for our community. A list of MVHS Board members is available on the MVHS website (www.mvhealthsystem.org).
How much will it cost to build the new hospital?
The total project cost is estimated to be between $500 million and $600 million. $300 million was awarded to MVHS in April 2015 through the New York State budget to create an integrated healthcare delivery system in Oneida County. It is anticipated that MVHS will finance the remaining cost through borrowing, grant opportunities and philanthropy.
How big is the site for the proposed new hospital?
The footprint for the hospital would be located on 17 acres. There are an additional 17 acres surrounding the hospital which could potentially be used for parking garages, medical office buildings or other complementary facilities. Development of the 34 acres may not happen at one time but it is important to be future-focused on the expansion needs of the organization.
What about property owners downtown?
A letter will be sent to the property owners in the area that may or may not be impacted in order to give them an estimated timeline for our evaluation of the site and the feasibility of the downtown location. We anticipate the study will be completed in early 2016. If we move forward we would then anticipate working with the property owners on a purchase offer based on fair market value. It is our understanding that nearly half of the potential sites are currently owned by the City of Utica. We would work with the Mayor and the Planning Department with these sites as we move forward.
Will the new hospital costs affect community members’ taxes?
- This year, $300 million was approved in the New York State budget to help create an integrated healthcare delivery system in Oneida County. Those dollars would support the building of a new hospital. This initiative, much like the support of nanotechnology in the area, is designed to support and enhance the quality of life for our region.
- MVHS is a non-profit organization and receives no operating subsidies from local governments. The cost of constructing a new hospital will not be funded by local taxes.
- To date we have not had discussions with the city or county regarding the tax impact of a downtown location. It may impact the tax base if the current businesses located in the new hospital area do not relocate within the city or county.
How many beds will the new hospital have and how big will it be?
It is currently estimated that the new hospital will have 420 inpatient beds. We estimate the size will be 900,000 square feet, about twice the size of the hospital at the St. Luke’s Campus of FSLH.
Will there be more private patient rooms in the new facility?
All patient rooms in the new hospital will be private. This will significantly help with enhancing quality and the overall patient satisfaction experience.
How long will it take to build a new hospital? When do we anticipate the new hospital will open?
The entire process is expected to take five to six years to complete. From final approval of the site, it will take 18 to 24 months of planning and design before construction begins. Once we break ground we anticipate construction to take two and a half to three years. The anticipated opening would be in 2021.
Would having a new hospital affect doctors in the area? If so, how?
As a large system, MVHS has much to offer when recruiting new physicians. A single new hospital to support patients in our community will help with the recruitment of specialists to the area. It will also support the needs of patients cared for by our primary care providers. The MVHS Medical Group currently has 19 primary care offices located throughout Oneida and Herkimer counties, a Children’s Health Center, Women’s Health Center and multi-specialty providers including general surgery, orthopedic surgery, neuro sciences and cardiac care. The Sister Rose Vincent Family Medicine Center provides patient care services for the whole family and is also a teaching facility for Family Medicine Residents. The MVHS Medical Group enhances services in our area through greater collaboration and improved clinical quality for patient care.
Members of our current Medical Staffs will be actively involved in the planning and design of the new hospital. Their input will be essential in building and equipping the new facility to enhance their ability to provide state of the art medical care to their patients.
How will a new hospital benefit patients who present in the Emergency Departments?
Currently we have two hospitals with two Emergency Departments only two miles apart. Having one centralized hospital and one Emergency Department helps to ensure that patients are getting appropriate, specialized care. Now patients may present at the “wrong” hospital. They may be experiencing a stroke and go to SEMC instead of the Stroke Center at FSLH. Pregnant patients may present at SEMC when FSLH is the maternity hospital. We don’t have coverage of all specialties such as Orthopedics at each hospital 24/7. Consolidating to one hospital helps to ensure greater coverage for specialized care, improves quality of care and patient outcomes.
Why are we building? Why not just add on to SEMC and FSLH?
SEMC opened in 1917 and the St. Luke’s Campus opened in 1957. Since they were built in a time when healthcare was much different than it is today, these facilities were not designed to accommodate the programs, equipment and overall patient-care delivery and safety that are part of our service today. MVHS incurs considerable expenses in order to remain code-compliant and to accommodate new services and equipment in our existing locations. Our current services are provided in space that was renovated to adjust to the changes in healthcare and, as a result, patient flow and staff efficiency are not optimal. Two of the existing campuses, especially SEMC, are also constrained by size and location and cannot easily accommodate much-needed parking areas. A new hospital would help to alleviate these issues since it can be designed based on new technology and the current knowledge we have regarding safe and proper patient-care delivery.
What will happen to the existing buildings?
We will develop a transition plan for our current buildings. Not all services will be moved to the new hospital. One or more of our locations will most likely be used for support services that do not need to be at the main campus.
Will all departments now be in the new hospital (like the Cancer Center) or is there a possibility of some still being off site?
All departments will most likely not be in one building. The goal of the new hospital is to combine all inpatient services to one location as well as the departments that support inpatient care (i.e. pharmacy, nutrition, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.). It’s most likely that certain departments, such as the Cancer Center, Center for Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Services and the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing will remain at off-site locations.
How will philanthropy play a role in the building of a new hospital?
While the NYS grant to build the new hospital is an excellent beginning, it only covers a portion of the cost to construct a new hospital which is estimated to be between $500 and $600 million. We still need to finance the project through additional grants and loans as well as working with our generous community to obtain contributions. Gifting support from the community will be vital to the completion of the new hospital.
Will we continue to fundraise for the individual hospitals in the meantime?
Yes. The new hospital is five to six years away. Our existing services still need updating and we need to continue to make the necessary investments in technology and services. Continuing fundraising efforts throughout the construction of the new hospital is very important to assist in meeting our current operational needs and to ensure quality care, patient safety and customer satisfaction.
What will happen to the SEMC Chapel if we were to build a new hospital?
We will be working on a plan for the Chapel which was established by SEMC and not the Catholic Church. We will work with Pastoral Care to develop an appropriate transition for some type of sanctuary in the new hospital.
Could transportation for those who need it be incorporated into parking plans (i.e. shuttles from large parking lots or garages to hospital entrances)?
We will look at all conveniences for patients, visitors, employees, volunteers and medical staff to help make access to the hospital as convenient as possible.
Do we anticipate any services being added or eliminated? What new services might be brought to the area as a result?
The new hospital will help to enhance services for the Mohawk Valley through collaboration and improved clinical quality and efficiencies. As a single system we have more to offer when recruiting physicians. New physicians can also mean new services for our area, services we have not been able to provide in the past. A single hospital also allows us to further cultivate our centers of excellence by implementing advancements in technology and practice.
With a single hospital, how will I be able to choose where I receive my care when I only have one option?
- Under the direction of the New York State Department of Health, SEMC and FSLH began looking for opportunities to eliminate service redundancy in the community many years ago. Services such as Maternity, Stroke, Cardiac, Cancer and Dialysis are now centralized at one of the organizations. Our affiliation is built on the concept of Centers of Excellence. It helps us to have more efficiency within the system and streamline services.
- Having a single hospital will allow us to enhance and centralize services for our community.
- Providers choose where they practice and patients choose their providers. More than 600 physicians have chosen MVHS because they are confident in the care their patients receive through our system.
Will there be an opportunity for community input on the project?
Community input is an essential part in the hospital design process and will help MVHS to create an ideal patient experience. Community members can provide input in a variety of ways, including:
- Visiting our website at www.mvhealthsystem.org for updates, information and to ask questions. Our Q&A will be updated regularly.
- Contacting our MVHS Communications and Marketing Department at (315) 624-5600.
- Community forums that will be scheduled during the planning process with dates and times promoted through the local media.
Will it be on the bus line (for transportation needs)?
Ensuring our community has convenient access to our new facility is a priority. We will work with Oneida County officials and the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro) to ensure patients, family members, employees and volunteers will have public transportation options available to them.
What impact will this have on unions?
It is too soon to determine the impact this will have on union representation. The National Labor Relations Board will be integral in directing the process and providing guidance for all union-related activity.
Will the affiliation become a full merger? What will happen to SEMC and FSLH – will the names go away as well as the Catholic affiliation of SEMC?
Although the exact corporate structure has not been finalized, the new hospital will be a single corporate entity with a new name. The new name has not yet been chosen. The new healthcare system will not be Catholic, although certain traditions of SEMC will continue to be practiced and respected.
Throughout this process, the commitment of our boards of directors and leadership team has been to keep our community and healthcare family as informed as possible. We will continue to communicate any changes going forward.