$300M in governor’s budget for Utica hospital merger

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Preliminary plans for a new hospital for the Mohawk Valley Health System have attracted the governor’s attention — to the tune of $300 million.

That’s how much money Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo designated in his proposed 2015-16 spending plan for the possible combination of three area health-care facilities into one.

Mohawk Valley Health System was created last year by the formal merger of St. Elizabeth Medical Center and Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare.

The St. Elizabeth, Faxton and St.Luke’s campuses could be consolidated into one eventually. No location for a new facility has been selected.

“Last fall we began exploring the concept of a new, free-standing hospital for the Mohawk Valley Health System,” said Scott H. Perra, president and CEO.

“Since that time we have received tremendous support locally and at the state level,” Perra added.

Cuomo lists the project in his executive budget. As part of the governor’s proposed $700 million to support upstate hospitals, $300 million is designated “to create an integrated health care delivery system in Oneida County to reduce unnecessary inpatient beds and expand primary care services.”

“This is very exciting news for our community,” said Perra.

In recent months, MVHS representatives have been meeting with officials from the state Department of Health, legislative leaders, local public officials and community leaders to discuss the new hospital concept. The conversations have been positive, according to Perra.

Rome Memorial Hospital is not part of the project.

In December, MVHS submitted the new hospital concept as part of its proposal under the state Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program. MVHS anticipates it will know more about that proposal by late spring. The money for the $6.42 billion program comes from $8 billion in savings from Medicaid redesign that the federal government allowed the state to keep. The program’s goal is to fund projects that will improve the quality of health care and reduce avoidable hospital admissions by 25 percent over the next five years.

“What’s significant about the governor’s proposal is that the additional financial support from New York state is outside of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program application,” noted Perra.  He anticipates knowing more about that proposal by late spring. 

A new hospital would be costly, estimated at more than $460 million. For this to be a reality the organization would need financial support from federal and state governments, lending institutions and philanthropic support from the community, notes Perra.

“One of the most frequent questions I am asked is ‘where will it be?’ It will take research and planning to determine the best location,” said Perra. And the project will take time. “We estimate from start to finish it could take up to four to six years to complete,” he said.

Only a handful of hospitals have been built in New York in recent decades. For the most part, hospitals have expanded facilities or undertaken upgrades and modernizations of existing ones.

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