Updated April 17, 2018
The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) received notification on April 12, 2018, that the Certificate of Need (CON) application for the construction of the new healthcare campus was approved by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Public Health and Health Planning Council. The approval allows MVHS to contintue to move forward with the project which includes finalizing the design of the new facility, completing the New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process and completing property acquisition.
Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) initiated the New York State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process for the new, downtown hospital at a meeting of the Oneida County Local Development Corporation (OCLDC) in February 2018. The Planning Board for the City of Utica has applied for Lead Agency status for SEQR. A Planning Board meeting on April 19, 2018, is anticipated to finalize the City of Utica Planning Board’s Lead Agency status. It is anticipated the SEQR process will take between six to nine months to complete.
MVHS and Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC (BSK), the law firm handling the property acquisition process, continue to work with the property owners to finalize the purchase-option agreements. Of the 35 property owners representing 72 parcels of land in the downtown project footprint, not including parcels owned by the City of Utica:
- Fourteen property owners have completed or are in the process of completing a signed, purchase-option agreement.
- Eleven property owners are in active negotiation with MVHS.
- Six property owners have received purchase-option agreements but are not in active discussion with BSK or MVHS.
- Four property owners have indicated they are not interested in any type of agreement.
The MVHS Board of Directors approved two major steps to support the property owners and address their needs and concerns:
- Provide up to $1 million in relocation funding for affected property owners in the project footprint, to support businesses looking to relocate within the City of Utica or Oneida County.
- Property owners in the footprint of the new campus will not be responsible for addressing environmental issues caused by previous owners.
New Project Coordinator - Joseph B. Wicks of Bouckville has been hired to help affected downtown businesses identify potential options and funding for relocation. The position is funded by The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties.
In addition to having a representative act as a central point of contact for the downtown property owners, Mt. Wicks will serve as a community liaison for a work group, comprised of representatives of the Governor’s Office, Oneida County, City of Utica, Mohawk Valley EDGE, MVHS and The Community Foundation.
After careful and thorough exploration of all possible options, the City and County have determined that if it becomes necessary, the City of Utica will acquire properties in the project footprint by means of eminent domain through its Urban Renewal Agency, and Oneida County will do the same for properties in the project parking garage footprint.
The project is funded by a $300 million Transformation Grant from the New York State Department of Health. MVHS received the grant notification on April 3, 2017. The grant application and award noted that the project funding is for a campus that is located in the largest population center of Oneida County which is the City of Utica.
Why not the St. Luke’s Campus?
The St. Luke’s and St. Elizabeth campuses need to remain open and fully functional during construction of the new hospital in order to meet the patient need in our community. This includes all inpatient care and outpatient care, including our Emergency Departments that provide vital services for patients with strokes, heart attacks and trauma.
If we were to build on the current St. Luke's Campus, the ideal site is where the current hospital exists. Since the St. Luke’s hospital must remain open to meet the community’s needs until the new hospital is built and ready for occupancy, the ideal location on that campus cannot be used.
There is insufficient contiguous and unencumbered acreage at the St. Luke’s site (which currently includes the hospital and the Center for Rehabilitation and Continuing Care) to reasonably support the design of the new hospital.
A new, state-of-the-art, 21st century hospital is designed from the inside out – developing a layout for patient services and support that maximizes patient need and use, as well as good access to the main entrance of the hospital, the Emergency Department for both walk in and ambulances and a delivery/loading dock area. The configuration developed by the design teams and presented to the community in November 2017 was designed with patient use and accessibility in mind. The design ensures that each patient room has window views that are unobstructed and has the maximum amount of light. Having natural light in areas where patients are being cared for has been demonstrated to support healing.
Hospitals support the medical needs of the community with inpatient and outpatient care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Building on the St. Luke’s site would mean an active construction site next to a fully operational hospital that must be mindful and sensitive to patient care and needs with round the clock access for on-going medical activities. Annually at the St. Luke’s Campus we have more than 40,000 Emergency Department patients – that’s more than 100 patients a day. We care for 15,000 inpatients and conduct more than 5,000 surgeries.
The hospital averages 35 ambulances daily and is supported by nearly 2,000 employees, medical staff and volunteers. These numbers do not take into account visitors and family members who come with patients or come to see patients, or vendors who regularly do business at the campus.
Sites for a construction project of this magnitude need to have large areas available for the staging of the build and construction materials. Building on the St. Luke’s Campus with a fully operational hospital and rehabilitation center/nursing home limits the space available. Whatever space that might be available would be needed for parking and transportation for patients, visitors and their families, emergency vehicle and medical staff. Offsite parking would need to be set up for employees, medical staff, volunteers and construction workers and a provision for 24-hour transportation to and from the property would need to be in place for several years. The build is expected to take more than two and half years.
The hospital on the St. Luke’s Campus is 460,900 square feet with an attached professional office building. The new hospital is projected to be 672,000 square feet, about one and one half times larger than the current St. Luke’s hospital. Also on the campus is the Center for Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Services (CRCCS) which is 175,700 square feet and houses a nursing home, an adult day health program, acute inpatient rehabilitation unit, dialysis unit, Visiting Nurse Association of Utica and Oneida County and Senior Network Health – all of entities on the property need to remain open and operational during the build. The hospital on the St. Elizabeth campus is 369,700 square feet on a 22 acre site.
Even though there is 64 acres of land at the St. Luke’s site much of it is occupied. There is insufficient contiguous and unencumbered acreage available at the site for a new hospital. Twenty five acres support the hospital and professional office building. CRCCS covers three acres of the site and there are potentially federally-regulated wetlands that encumber additional acreage at the St. Luke’s site. The acreage also houses in separate buildings an Energy Center, Co-Generation Plant, Dental Center, onsite Day Care buildings and additional buildings that house on-site generators and heating and cooling stations.