Katie Kinne

Children's Hospital expansion foes challenge new patient projections

Katie Kinne
Children's Hospital expansion foes challenge new patient projections

By: Katie Lannan, State House News Service

BOSTON — The group seeking to stop Boston Children's Hospital from moving forward with a $1 billion expansion filed a report this week with state health officials questioning whether the project would be necessary and sustainable.

On Wednesday, the Save the Prouty Garden group filed a report with the Department of Public Health and the Health Policy Commission in response to a separate analysis commissioned by the hospital.

Twelve plaintiffs, including Boston Children's Hospital patients, doctors, donors and parents, filed a Superior Court lawsuit in April against the hospital over a $1,068,263,000 project that includes an 11-floor inpatient clinical building and an eight-floor ambulatory clinical building. The plaintiffs say the expansion would involve the demolition of the popular Prouty Garden on the hospital grounds, while hospital officials have said no permanent closure of the healing garden is planned.

As part of a determination of need review of the expansion, the Department of Public Health required Children's to submit an independent cost analysis answering questions related to financing, costs and patient activity.

The analysis, a copy of which was obtained by the News Service, said the construction will add 71 new inpatient beds, three cardiovascular operating rooms, two MRI units and "a hybrid operating room/interventional suite," while relocating and expanding "existing green space" across "multiple indoor and outdoor gardens."

According to the cost analysis, the project was driven by a combination of factors, including the desires to enhance "family-centered" care, create a more cost-efficient campus and "address the development of a global market for complex care services."

The analysis refers to an expected growth in regional, national and international patient populations, noting continued expansion of the hospital's international medicine program. Data included in the report shows that while the portion of patients from the local area declined from 72.1 percent to 67.4 percent from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2015, the percentage of international patients rose from 2.5 percent to 5.6 percent over the same time period.

The Prouty Garden group's response to the analysis raises concerns about the expected international growth. The response says that the combination of a buildup of medical infrastructure in China and the Middle East and reductions in subsidies from Middle Eastern governments for medical tourism creates "considerable doubt about the sustainability of the international business model."

"The applicant may believe it has sufficient wealth to assume such outsized risk, but it's the Commonwealth's taxpayers and premium payers who'll be left to pick up the tab" if the projections aren't met, the response said.

Gus Murby, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who has been acting as a spokesman for the group, said in a statement that the Department of Public Health "should request another, more complete and impartial cost impact analysis that challenges the hospital's financial and patient volume projections."