MV EDGE supports downtown Utica hospital

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A leading regional economic development organization is supporting the selection of downtown Utica for the home for a new hospital.

The Mohawk Valley EDGE Board of Directors has passed a resolution endorsing the location for a new facility so the two acute care hospitals run by the Mohawk Valley Health System can be consolidated into one operation. The St. Elizabeth Medical Center in south Utica and the St. Luke’s campus would be merged into one complex near the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

“Mohawk Valley EDGE fully supports construction of the new, integrated health campus in downtown Utica because it will vastly improve the delivery of health care services to area residents while simultaneously fostering the revitalization of downtown Utica thereby facilitating the region’s overall economic transformation to the 21st century economy,” states the resolution adopted at the end of the board’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday.

The approval came after board members discussed the resolution during a rare executive session.

The state allocated $300 million for the project in 2015, and the formal application from MVHS seeking the funds was approved by the state Health Department earlier this year. The state money represents a substantial down payment for the $480 million, 750,000-square-foot facility.

The EDGE resolution says that one of the reasons for the state agency’s decision to approve the Health Care Facility Transformation grant was MVHS’s “commitment to pursue development of a new, integrated medical campus in downtown Utica — the hub of the largest population center in Oneida County.”

Ever since the project was announced in 2015 and downtown Utica became the preferred location for the new hospital, there has been an undercurrent of opposition to the site, though not necessarily a new modern medical facility. The proposed downtown location includes about 17 acres between Columbia, State and Oriskany streets, and Broadway.

“On behalf of the Mohawk Valley Health System, I’d like to thank the Mohawk Valley EDGE Board of Directors for their endorsement,” said CEO Scott H. Perra. “The support from an organization representing our business community is very meaningful for us. We have a unique opportunity to build a new health care campus for our community that delivers state-of-the-art medical care, and supports positive change and revitalization for downtown Utica and the region.”

Perra is an EDGE board member and recused himself from the vote.

The hospital official told county legislators in May that the new hospital is as much an urban revitalization project, with a substantial economic impact, as it is a health care one. He said housing, commercial, retail and entertainment venues are positioned to benefit from the influx of employees to the downtown location. It is estimated that about 3,500 people will work at the new facility.

MVHS expects to submit an application to the state Health Department for a certificate of need by the end of the year.

“And while the CON [certificate of need] does not include a section on public support for the project, we are appreciative of all who are supportive of the project,” said Perra.

“The CON process is estimated to take 12 to 18 months.”

The planning and design process is underway. Mohawk Valley EDGE has helped with some of the project’s preliminary steps, like obtaining appraisals for properties needed to enable construction.

Officials at MVHS and the architectural firm selected to design the facility anticipate the process will continue throughout the summer with the new campus design beginning to take shape in early fall and through 2018. The new hospital is projected to open in 2022.

MVHS medical staff, nurses, support staff and executives have visited several hospitals to see how new facilities have changed the patient experience. The information and ideas gained during these trips will be used as the design progresses for the Utica hospital. There have been visits to Owensboro, Ky., New Orleans, La., Elmhurst, Ill., and Middletown in downstate.

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