BLDUP Update 07/08/21

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every facet of daily life for a year, with no industry left untouched in its wake. Across the world, healthcare systems, the epicenter of the virus, were especially vulnerable as hospitals strained to contain and treat scores of infected patients. Decades of deferred investment combined with little space for development in urban areas have left Boston’s hospital network outdated and in dire need of modernization.

In Massachusetts, the pandemic pushed Boston-area hospitals to their limits, forcing administrators to analyze their infrastructure and improve services. “In the spring 2020’s peak, Faulkner was at 80 percent occupancy for its medical/surgical capacity and 71 percent in its intensive care unit,” said Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. “With 54 COVID-19  medical/surgical patients, eight COVID-19 ICU patients, and three COVID-19 patients in psychiatry, BWFH had stopped doing any surgeries as two of the medical/surgical units were full with COVID-19 patients, a third unit was beginning to take COVID-19 patients, and the surgical unit was being converted to a COVID-19 medical unit. The ICU was almost entirely COVID-19 patients. Faulkner Hospital has discharged over 900 COVID-19 inpatients since the pandemic started.”

Across Greater Boston, aging hospital infrastructure is receiving an infusion of new life and development as capital improvement projects begin taking off. At Massachusetts General Hospital’s flagship campus in Boston’s West End, an expansion project reaching $1B dollars is underway to prepare the hospital for modernization designed to address changing healthcare needs and a growing inpatient population. “Emergency department decompression really requires access to alternative high-level places for outpatient care, or outflow to beds,” said Sally Mason Boemer, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance at Massachusetts General Hospital. “One-third of our med-surge inpatient care is being provided in buildings 50-80 years old, and even our newest additions are approaching 30 years old. There was no efficient or cost-effective path to retrofit these facilities to accommodate today’s technology, the size of today’s care teams, nor to increase the number of private rooms. Right now, only 38% of MGH’s rooms are singles.” Plans call for the rebuilding of their main campus in a 1,050,450 SF development in approximately 14 above grade levels with 482 beds as well as clinical, ambulatory, and support services for the hospital administration.

Massachusetts General Hospital Campus Master Plan

At Faulkner, plans were recently approved to expand hospital capacity, adding nearly 100,000 SF of additional floor space to the existing building. “We’ve had to give up bedspace over the years to support new technologies,” said Susan Dempsey, Vice President of Clinical Services for Brigham and Women’s. “In 1976, there were no MRI’s, there weren’t master-telemetry monitors for every patient, so we had to reduce our bed count to support that.” Once finished, the hospital will have added 78 new inpatient beds as well as clinical support and ambulatory space.

Faulkner Hospital Campus Expansion Project

Throughout Massachusetts, outpatient care facilities are being built to serve patients after surgeries to free up hospital space. Mass General Brigham has released plans to build three new surgery centers in Woburn, Westwood, and Westborough, and Boston Children’s Hospital is proposing to build a 224,000 SF, 6-story pediatric surgery center in Needham off Route 128. “With occupancy rates operating at near capacity and a steadily growing number of complex patients, our facilities need to be modernized to meet today’s needs.” the hospital said. In addition, work is nearing completion on Boston Children’s new $1 billion state-of-the-art Hale Family Building. Once completed, the building will feature 472 beds and allow for the expansion of Children’s Hospital’s cardiovascular program and the establishment of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with individual patient rooms to support privacy. Nearby in Longwood, Beth Israel Deaconess is constructing a 10-story, 325,000-square-foot inpatient building. The building will include private patient rooms, imaging facilities, and operating rooms, with a rooftop helicopter pad. The new inpatient building will be part of Beth Israel’s West Campus.

Boston Children's Hospital

Elsewhere in New England, hospitals are taking the opportunity to modernize and expand their facilities. In Manchester, New Hampshire, construction has broken ground on Elliot Hospital’s new Emergency Department wing with a 22,000 SF addition featuring 32 private exam rooms, 4 exams bays, 3 trauma rooms, 4 pediatric exam rooms, 6 psychiatric evaluation rooms, and 10 rapid triage and treatment chairs. In Lebanon, New Hampshire, work is well underway on a 212,000 SF expansion of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. In Rhode Island, plans are under review for the redevelopment of the closed Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket as a 390,000 SF, 200-unit veterans healthcare facility, complete with therapy and social services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for modernization of Greater Boston’s hospitals, with investment playing catch-up on decades-old infrastructure. As new development breaks ground, these modern facilities will feature drastically different layouts than their predecessors, integrating current medical technology with creature comforts now considered standard in healthcare.

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