THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Surgery center plan withdrawn

By James O'Brien
Globe Correspondent / June 17, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

Newton-Wellesley Hospital has withdrawn its plan to build an outpatient surgical facility in Framingham, following objections and a legal challenge by competitor MetroWest Medical Center.

“I have made the decision that Newton-Wellesley will not continue with plans to open this facility in Framingham,’’ Michael Jellinek, Newton-Wellesley’s president, said in a statement yesterday. “The Cochituate Road location is not critical to the success of the program, and I am confident we will find another suitable site.’’

The nonprofit Newton-Wellesley Hospital, owned by Partners HealthCare, proposed the 24,000-square-foot facility in Framingham, along Route 30 - also known as Cochituate Road - to handle an overflow of surgical outpatients from its main campus on Route 16 in Newton.

Now, said Newton-Wellesley spokesman Brian O’Dea, the hospital will look elsewhere to expand. He would not yet say where, however.

“The criteria remains the same,’’ O’Dea said. “It needs to be convenient’’ to the main campus.

Andrei Soran, chief executive officer of MetroWest Medical Center, welcomed Jellinek’s decision. “He has taken his responsibility as a steward of healthcare in Central Massachusetts seriously,’’ said Soran.

Additionally, Soran said the Newton-Wellesley decision marked an important victory for MetroWest Medical Center. “This is even more motivation to raise the quality of our service, to make sure that this geography is not an opportunity for any other competitor,’’ he said.

It was significant opposition from for-profit MetroWest Medical Center and its supporters, including some Framingham government officials, that drove Newton-Wellesley’s decision. MetroWest Medical Center, owned by Vanguard Health Systems, consists of Framingham Union Hospital in Framingham and Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick, and four other facilities.

“The climate in Framingham was not one of welcoming and enthusiasm,’’ O’Dea said. “We would need to, and want to, work with the Board of Health . . . and here was a case in which the Board of Health was not interested.’’

While the Framingham Planning Board approved the project on May 4, the Framingham Board of Selectmen and Board of Health voiced objections to Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s plan.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen asked the state Department of Public Health to conduct a determination-of-need review of the project, a move backed by the Board of Health.

Both boards were concerned about what members said would be the negative financial impact on Framingham Union Hospital and Leonard Morse Hospital.

“We felt that the opening of the clinic by Newton-Wellesley would have placed our community hospital in the position where it might not be able to continue,’’ said Michael Hugo, chairman of the Board of Health, yesterday.

But Newton-Wellesley spokesman O’Dea said yesterday that concerns over possible competition were “unnecessary.’’ Newton-Wellesley Hospital maintained throughout the proposal process that its weekday-only facility would not take surgical business away from MetroWest Medical Center operating rooms.

The Board of Health voted on May 20 to appeal the Planning Board’s approval of the project, but retracted that move on May 27. MetroWest Medical Center filed its own appeal in Land Court on May 28. That appeal would be withdrawn, Soran said.