DPH to hold hearing on proposed Mass General Brigham Westborough expansion

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Marlborough City Council urged to attend

By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

The sun sets behind Marlborough Hospital. Executives, there, are currently concerned about a new plan by Mass General Brigham to build a new clinic in Westborough. (Photo by/ Dakota Antelman)

Marlborough—The state Department of Public Health (DPH) is holding a virtual public hearing, April 6 to discuss a proposed 62,000 square foot Mass General Brigham outpatient care clinic just off Route 9 in Westborough.

This comes after Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant and the City Council recently signed and sent a resolution to the state citing concerns about the negative financial impact a new, large clinic would have on UMass Memorial – Marlborough Hospital, which is located just six miles from the proposed Mass General Brigham site.

“Allowing this expansion will fundamentally and irreparably change the health care landscape in the area” UMass Vice President of Community and Governmental Affairs James Leary told City Councilors at a Health Services Committee meeting, March 29.

He further noted concerns about rising drive-up costs as well as new equity issues.

Hearing scheduled as Mass General Brigham argues for approval

This hearing is part of a “determination of need application” from Mass General Brigham, which seeks to build at 1400 West Park Dr in Westborough.

In a statement to the Community Advocate, March 31, Mass General Brigham Director of Communications Bridget Perry said her organization, indeed, sees a need in Westborough.

“Mass General Brigham currently has 42,000 patients that live within twenty minutes of our proposed Westborough facility, including 3,865 Marlborough residents,” Perry wrote. “Today, most of our patients travel to Boston, or Newton-Wellesley, to receive care in our hospitals. The proposed Westborough facility will provide more accessible and affordable care for our existing patients who live in MetroWest including primary care, behavioral health, and specialty care.”

Concerns persist as Marlborough eyes Westborough proposal

Back in Marlborough, Leary still urged all City Councilors to attend this hearing, April 6, or submit comments to the DPH by April 16.

According to Leary, the state has agreed to contract for an independent cost impact analysis, following the resolution signed and submitted by the Marlborough City Council.

If this large clinic is built in nearby Westborough, by one of the state’s largest and most expensive hospital systems, Leary said, “our argument is that it would raise costs for services at Marlborough Hospital, worsen health equity and destabilize safety net providers.”

Back in a previous presentation, March 8, Leary told the Council that “64% of patients at Marlborough Hospital are public payers” meaning they get either don’t have insurance or get their insurance through Medicare or MassHealth (Medicaid).

Leary said that hospital data shows MassHealth, in particular, covers between 60 to 65 cents on every dollar of care. As a result, Leary had said it is critically important that patients on commercial plans continue to receive care at Marlborough Hospital to keep the budget in balance and to keep costs in check.

Marlborough Hospital admin discuss behavioral health services

Elaborating on Leary’s comments, UMass Vice President of Development, Marketing and Communications Ellen Carlucci added, March 29, that she is particularly concerned about the proposed MGB Westborough clinic’s potential impact on Marlborough’s behavioral health services.

“We have 28 in-patient beds [and] outpatient services,” she said. “If we are forced to go over our fiscal margins, how are we going to be able to address behavioral health services?”

Councilors question need for a Westborough clinic

Councilors, in turn, responded to all this with Councilor David Doucette questioning the need for a clinic given the existence of two other nearby hospitals in addition to Marlborough Hospital. Those are Milford Hospital and the MetroWest Medical Center.

“We have plenty of service at Marlborough Hospital,” Councilor Donald Landers, March 29. “If one has to, you can go to UMass Memorial (sites) in Worcester [as well].”

Mass General Brigham already has a presence in Marlborough

As these latest conversations play out, Perry noted to the Community Advocate, March 31, that MGB already has an existing 120,000 square foot data center on Forrest Street in Marlborough.

Perry said that facility employs 138 staff members and houses the Charles River Medical Associates practice that is affiliated with Mass General Brigham’s “community physicians organization.”

“We look forward to working with the Marlborough community and others to provide our existing patients with more accessible and affordable care,” Perry said.