Frequently Asked Questions
By early 2023, the Central New York region will be home to the newest hospital in New York State. The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) is working with community partners to build a new, integrated hospital and healthcare campus in Downtown Utica. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
1. Why do we need a new hospital?
While both of the existing hospital campuses have been modernized over time, their physical plants are aging (St. Luke’s is over 60 years old and St. Elizabeth is over 100) and are limited in their ability to accommodate modern equipment and technology and adapt to changing models of patient care. New state initiatives for transforming healthcare in New York provided, first, the impetus to explore the possibility of a new hospital in Central New York and then the funding to make this a reality. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for advancing healthcare in this region, not only for today but for generations to come.
2. Will the hospital really get built?
Yes. After nearly four years of planning and approvals, the construction of the new hospital is moving forward with an anticipated “move in” date of February 2023.
3. What will be the name of the new hospital?
Currently, we are calling it the Mohawk Valley Medical Center but that may change before the hospital opens.
4. What services or programs will not be moving to the new hospital?
The Center for Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Services (CRCCS), and the services provided within, will remain at its location on Champlin Avenue. Additionally, the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing and Marian Medical Professional Building will remain on the St. Elizabeth Campus. It is also anticipated that the services at the Faxton Campus, including the Cancer Center, Urgent Care, Outpatient Rehabilitation, etc. will remain at that campus.
5. What will happen to the existing hospital campus buildings?
MVHS is contracting with CHA Consulting, Inc., an engineering consulting firm, to help us with a comprehensive evaluation of the potential repurposing of the current facilities. In order to ensure a comprehensive evaluation, the repurposing project will look at the potential reuse of the three main MVHS campuses: St. Luke’s, St. Elizabeth and Faxton. Based on prior assessments, MVHS previously stated it is likely the Faxton Campus will remain open; however Faxton was included in the study to ensure that keeping the campus open is the proper course of action. This study will be underway by March 2019. It’s important to note that other hospitals that have relocated to new campuses have repurposed their old buildings as schools, government office buildings and townhouses or condos.
6. Will physician offices be moved to Downtown Utica?
Part of the plan of the hospital/healthcare campus in downtown Utica is to establish a Medical Office Building across from the hospital. This will provide office space for many of the MVHS-employed physicians as well as other physicians that may be interested in leasing space. It is also anticipated that over the course of time, additional medical office space would be developed in the downtown area.Part of the plan of the hospital/healthcare campus in downtown Utica is to establish a Medical Office Building across from the hospital. This will provide office space for many of the MVHS-employed physicians as well as other physicians that may be interested in leasing space. It is also anticipated that over the course of time, additional medical office space would be developed in the downtown area.
7. Will I have a job when the new hospital opens?
Yes, we are working to ensure that our employees maintain their jobs through a comprehensive process of planning between now and when the new hospital opens. The new hospital will be the most successful if it’s staffed by qualified, experienced, dedicated employees and that’s our goal. A specific staffing plan is presently under development and will be shared with staff when completed. Right now we have many, many job openings and believe that will continue to be the case. If an existing job will not be available in the new hospital, we will help to find another position for an MVHS employee.
8. Will I have to reapply for my job?
It is not our intent that our employees will have to reapply for their jobs. The amount of additional work that would take makes such a process prohibitive.
9. Will salaries and benefits change when we move to the new hospital?
It is not our intent that our employees will have to reapply for their jobs. The amount of additional work that would take makes such a process prohibitive.The new hospital will not impact non-union employees’ salaries and benefits. In fact, our goal today and for the future with the new hospital is to ensure that we have and maintain competitive salaries and benefits for our employees. For those that are members of a union, this will be determined by the unions through collective bargaining agreements.
10. Which unions will be in the new hospital?
We don’t know this yet. This is something that the unions, working in conjunction with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), will have to work out. Our goal is to have a committed, experienced workforce so we can provide the best care anywhere!
11. Who will be the management staff at the new hospital and how will they
It is anticipated that existing leadership will transition into the new facility in the same role. In the areas where there might be two positions now, we will develop and communicate a fair process that results in the selection of leader one year before we move into the new hospital. We have a lot of work to do now as we continue to operate our two acute care hospitals.
12. Will there be enough bathrooms, cafeteria space, locker rooms and break rooms?
This is a current topic of conversation as people are reviewing areas and spaces as the building takes shape. We are working closely with experts in space planning to make sure we can accommodate our needs.
13. Is there space for expansion?
Yes, the design takes into consideration expansion within the footprint of the hospital. Spaces are being designed with future expansion, if necessary, in mind. In addition, the placement of the building on the property footprint takes into consideration building expansion if that becomes necessary.
14. Where will be space to park?
There will be a 1,500 space parking garage located across the street from the hospital. This garage is being built through a partnership with Oneida County and the City of Utica. (And, note the rumors that this garage is being built for a future casino are not true.) There are also multiple surface parking lots planned. Parking assignments will occur as plans are finalized.
15. Once we’re merged into one campus, will we maintain the Catholic heritage of St. Elizabeth Medical Center?
The new hospital will be secular. It will be, as is MVHS, a place for all faiths to worship as they desire. There will be a new, very beautiful chapel that will accommodate all faiths and religions.
16. We now work on two different campuses, how will we transition to working together on one campus?
There is a lot of work ahead on this very issue. The goal is to bring the best of both hospitals into a single culture. This will take time and effort. We are just now talking about how to facilitate a process that will result in developing the best culture to support the best patient care possible. More to come on this.
17. What exactly is eminent domain and why is it happening?
Eminent domain is a legal process in which the government or its agencies can take private property (with reimbursement, of course) for the public good. Let’s separate the two building projects downtown: the hospital and the parking garage. As for the footprint under the hospital, all but three properties have negotiated agreements with MVHS. The remaining three are under active negotiations. That’s positive. We’ve been working with those building owners and local government to assist in securing new properties. In fact, some have already moved into new buildings. MVHS cannot exercise eminent domain. If that were to become an issue for the property involving the hospital site, the City of Utica would be responsible. As for the land under the parking garage, several properties have negotiated sales terms, but there are a few hold outs that have indicated they will not sell. In that case, the Oneida County government has the authority to exercise eminent domain.
Examples of when eminent domain would come into play would be to make way for a road or public park, or to provide housing for disadvantaged persons – or in this case, to make way for a new healthcare resource in Utica. The United States and New York Constitutions requires that owners are paid fair compensation their property is taken through eminent domain.
18. Will the new hospital create traffic problems in Downtown Utica?
That question has been asked a lot. The answer is no. First, the work being done on the highway system and the roads supporting downtown Utica are being designed with the new hospital in mind. Secondly, DOT has been involved all along and conducted exhaustive studies. The hospital area will require some specific modifications to turn lanes to accommodate hospital traffic.
19. Can the fire department handle the size of the new hospital?
Yes. The hospital, at nine stories tall, would not be the tallest/largest structure in the City.
20. What happens if we find something “buried” under the site?
This is all part of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process that is in its final stages. If hazardous materials are identified, we will clean up the sites. If historical archives are found, we will work with the appropriate agencies to determine what needs to be done.
21. Will elderly people from the suburbs come to Downtown Utica?
Most elderly individuals who seek care at a hospital are driven to the facility by a caregiver, family member or friend. Those who are driving someone to the hospital will find that it will be quite an easy trip. They will be able to pull right up to the hospital, drop the patient off, and then head to the garage to park. We do understand, however, that we will need to ensure that our communities, our employees and our patients are familiar with the quickest route to the hospital and will do mailings and other supportive education to ensure we get off to a good start. Signage will be very important as well.
22. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to build a hospital out of town (not in Downtown Utica)?
The downtown location has been chosen as the best location for multiple reasons. It brings access to care to those who often utilize our services as well as improves access as it’s right off the highway. And, in order to obtain the $300 million Health Care Facility Transformation Grant, the hospital needed to be located in Oneida County’s largest population center, which has been determined to be Utica, and be part of a larger state initiative to revitalize urban centers in New York. If we didn’t receive the $300 million in funding from the state, we would be unable to afford to build a new hospital or even expand the St. Luke’s Campus and move operations from St. Elizabeth to that campus.
23. What happens if we don’t get the $300 million grant from the state?
We have already begun to draw funds from the grant, and we do not believe the grant is in any jeopardy. We remain very involved with our state partners and meet with them twice a month. The process of receiving the grant money so far has been very smooth.
24. What happens if the hospital isn’t built?
It would be very unfortunate for the future of healthcare in this region. We will have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform healthcare not only for today but for generations to come. Practically speaking, we would continue to provide excellent care to our patients and community members and try to accommodate and adapt to new advances in healthcare delivery and technology. However, it will handicap us to keep pace with the ever-changing healthcare landscape and maintain our competitiveness with other healthcare organizations. It will be harder to attract new physicians and the experienced staff we need to provide modern, contemporary healthcare.
25. Why are so many people opposed to the new hospital? Do they know something that we don’t?
Any project of this magnitude and visibility will draw both proponents and opponents. However, in the case of the hospital, there are very few opponents – you may think there are more because they are very vocal and have been attracting media attention.
MVHS, on the other hand, has been more focused on getting the work done to build a new hospital than to be fighting with them in the press. Note that this group doesn’t oppose a new hospital, they oppose the downtown location because, as one stated recently in a Facebook post, “Our group wants … positive developments that make Downtown Utica a place to live and visit in joyous times, a place to go and celebrate what Utica is and was known for in the past. Not a magnet for sick/unhealthy, injured and those who are unfortunately dying.” Healthcare exists to take care of the sick, the injured and those less fortunate. And we are so honored to do so.
What we do know is that this new hospital and healthcare campus will benefit the nearly 234,000 people in our region and the thousands of people we take care of each year. We are not focusing on the view of a small group of community activists but on meeting the healthcare needs of our community now and for generations to come.
That said, we do know that our community wants more information on the new hospital, our process and our progress. So we’ll make sure they have answers to their questions, understand the tremendous benefits to them and to other patients, to our employees and physicians and to the economy of this region. From excellent to exceptional: that’s what Central New York deserves.