By: Katie Lannan, SHNS
BOSTON (State House News Service) – Opponents of an expansion at Boston Children’s Hospital are not dropping their fight after the $1 billion project won state approval last week.
A citizen group that has fought against the project, pointing to both a possibility of increased health spending in Massachusetts and the demolition of a popular healing garden on hospital grounds, announced Monday it plans to pursue an administrative appeal of the Public Health Council’s 10-0 vote in support.
The same group, known as the Anne Gamble Ten Taxpayer Group, continues to pursue a lawsuit against the expansion in Suffolk Superior Court.
“On both fronts, we look forward to continuing to press our strong case against this immensely expensive and wrong-headed proposal – this time free of the political pressures that apparently influenced the Public Health Council’s vote,” Gus Murby, a member of the group and lead plaintiff in the court case, said in a statement.
The project, approved last Thursday, includes construction of a new 11-floor inpatient clinical building on the main Longwood Medical Area campus, renovations to existing campus buildings and redevelopment of a Brookline property into an eight-story ambulatory care facility.
According to the Department of Public Health, it will bring the hospital’s facility up to modern standards, improve infection control and privacy, allow greater comfort for families and reduce wait times for services like MRI and surgery that are often at or over capacity.
Sandra Fenwick, the president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, told reporters Thursday that the DPH conducted “a thorough and appropriate review of a very complex project.”
“As we all have said, this is for the children, this is for the families and it’s for the future of Boston Children’s and what we can do for them today and tomorrow,” Fenwick said.
The opposition group is preparing to petition the state’s Health Facilities Appeals Board for a formal review, which would halt construction pending the outcome of the appeal, according to the group’s statement.
The five-person facilities board, whose members are appointed by the governor, hears appeals on decisions issued in the determination of need program, through which the Public Health Council reviews the necessity of proposed expansions or capital expenditures by health care facilities.
In announcing the appeal, Gregor McGregor, the attorney for the citizen group, cited a Health Policy Commission analysis that found the project carried a “likelihood” of increasing health care spending by commercial payers in Massachusetts. He said the expansion would also reduce competition for pediatric care in Massachusetts and “destroy the beautiful, unique and therapeutic Prouty Garden, which has given solace to generations of sick children and their families.”
Preserving the garden, McGregor said Thursday, was the “spark for the campaign” to stop the expansion. “However, that spark has grown to a conflagration, a fire, that now involves increased medical costs in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said.
Fenwick said there will be 25 percent more green space at the hospital after the project is complete.
“We have said over and over again that the Prouty Garden is a loss to all of us, but the needs of the children, the needs of the families, the needs of the staff, is first and foremost,” she said. “Our garden, our green space, will be replaced. It will be there for the children and the families. It will be a place of respite, it will be a place of solitude, it will be a place of healing.”
Asked Thursday if the hospital would continue planning for the expansion despite the court case and potential appeal, Fenwick said, “We have approval at the moment. We will continue with the process.”