Boston Children's garden advocates slam cost-benefit analysis of proposed expansion - Boston Business Journal

By Jessica Bartlett

Opponents of a planned $1 billion expansion at Boston Children’s Hospital that would eliminate the beloved Prouty Garden argue that the project will serve "no additional Massachusetts’ residents," and is instead based on demand from out-of-state patients.

The group's rebuttal comes after the state Department of Public Health released a favorable cost analysis of the project Wednesday, arguing that the project is cost effective and will enable the hospital to care for a growing specialized market.

Children’s has sought since late 2015 to gain state approval for a new 11-story inpatient building at its Longwood Medical Center campus and another eight-story outpatient building in Brookline, a $1 billion project which would add 71 new beds, three cardiovascular operating rooms, new MRI units and an operating room/interventional suite.

In February, state regulators said the hospital had to conduct a more in-depth analysis of the project before the state would rule on whether it would be allowed to move forward. The hospital hired Navigant under a state process to perform an independent cost analysis.

The 46-page report, which was made publicly available Wednesday, supports the hospital’s assertions that the project is cost effective and necessary to cater to a growing international patient base looking for specialized care.

But opponents, who largely are against the project because it would be constructed over the Prouty Garden, have contested the report's conclusions.

“The ICA concludes that the project, if approved, will serve no additional Massachusetts’ residents — the very definition of failing to demonstrate need for the project,” wrote John Lynch, a health care consultant hired by opponents of the project, in a response. “(State) regulations authorize DPH to consider only health care needs of Massachusetts residents. The proposed project is instead predicated — virtually in its entirety — on out-of-state and international ‘demand’.”

Opponents also questioned that the international market would offset natural declines in volume from the local market, as the population of children under the age of 17 decreases.

The project is still under review by the Department of Public Health, which is expected to make a decision on the expansion sometime this fall. A lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court by project opponents is also still pending.

In the report, Navigant says that all of the hospital’s assumptions about slight declines in volume and stable costs look to be accurate, even though initial volume assumptions for 2015 were off by 2 percent. Additionally, the report said the local market won’t need to be consolidated or cost of care increased to pay for the project, due to the influx of international patients.

“While BCH’s total costs will increase as more patients are served with additional beds and additional staff, and additional debt is issues, the additional volume is from non-Commonwealth patients,” the report says.

Boston Children’s Hospital said it was pleased by the report’s conclusions, but declined to comment extensively on the findings.

“Boston Children’s Hospital’s primary goal in proposing this project is to meet the clinical needs of our patients and their families,” said Rob Graham, a spokesman for Boston Children’s Hospital. “As Boston Children’s ability to care for increasingly complex patients grows, we’re treating more complex patients who can’t get the care they need elsewhere.”