By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Selectmen in Westborough see only positives in a plan to locate a new outpatient medical facility just off Route 9.
Regional medical giant Mass General Brigham (MGB) wants to put a new 62,000 square foot building in space at 1400 West Park Drive, which sits in an office park behind the prominent BJs corporate building many motorists see as they enter Westborough.
Expansion effort part of larger MGB plan
In addition to this Westborough facility, MGB has two other outpatient centers in the works for Woburn and Salem, NH. It’s also looking to expand an existing clinic in Westwood.
The proposal is currently in the “determination of need” process, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
As a result, Westborough town government is not involved at this juncture. If the project gets the green light from the state, though, MGB would submit a site plan to the Planning Board, which would then initiate a more typical permitting process, according to Town Manager Kristi Williams.
Clinic proposal earns support
The proposed outpatient center would offer surgery, primary care, behavioral health, orthopedics, neurology, diagnostic imaging and other specialty care.
According to Mass General Brigham Director of Communications Bridget Perry, these services would fill a vacancy, as the MGB system currently treats roughly 42,000 patients living within a 20-minute radius of this possible new clinic.
“Today, most of our patients travel to Boston, or Newton-Wellesley, to receive care in our hospitals,” she wrote in a statement to the Community Advocate March 31. “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.”
Multiple individual selectmen agree with Perry’s assessment.
At a recent meeting, Selectman Shelby Marshall noted that, in her work with elderly people, she’s witnessed how difficult it can be for some patients to coordinate travel to Boston for care.
“It would be a huge enhancement to the residents and those in surrounding communities,” she said of the clinic proposal.
She added that the project could boost the economy by locating in a parcel that has been vacant for some time.
“I see all positives,” Marshall said.
Others joined in the praise.
“It’s definitely a win-win for patients and the town as well,” noted Selectman Ian Johnson at the Board’s last meeting.
A bonus beyond access to care, Johnson suggested that this project presents an opportunity for the local economy as physicians, nurses and hospital staff may take high-paying jobs and reside in town.
Selectmen have unanimously agreed to send a letter of support for the proposal.
As Westborough supports clinic, Marlborough raises concerns
Not everyone is pleased with this effort, however.
UMass Memorial Health Care has filed paperwork opposing the plan. It argues there is not a need for a new clinic and notes that Marlborough Hospital, which it administers, sits six miles from this possible development. That facility, executives say, already provides care to a broad region that includes Westborough and its surrounding communities.
Ultimately, executives are worried a Westborough hospital would pull private insurance clients away from Marlborough, leaving behind the set of “public payers” who sometimes might lack the means to commute to Westborough.
Without private insurance to offset disproportionately low Medicare and Medicaid payouts, Marlborough Hospital fears its budget could falter, forcing rate hikes or service cuts.
“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.
Next steps to follow
Supporting its hospital, the City of Marlborough recently sent a resolution to the state calling for an independent cost analysis to be done to show whether this MGB facility would keep healthcare costs affordable.
Perry has said MGB remains committed to a continued working relationship with Marlborough, which already houses an MGB data center on Forrest Street.
“We look forward to working with the Marlborough community and others to provide our existing patients with more accessible and affordable care,” Perry said.
Comments can be submitted to the Department of Public Health, Determination of Need Program, by email to DPH.DON@MassMail.State.MA.US (preferred) or in writing Attn: DoN Support, 67 Forest Street, Marlborough, MA 01752.
The deadline is 5 p.m. on April 16. Written comments may be posted on the DPH website and released in response to a request for public records.