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Thursday, May 24, 2007

State approves Mass. General expansion plan

By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff

The state's Public Health Council today unanimously approved a major expansion at Massachusetts General Hospital that will increase the number of operating suites, add more private rooms, and allow ambulances to arrive protected from the weather and prying eyes.

The heart of the nearly $500 million expansion is a new 10-story building that will rise in the shadow of the hospital's iconic entrance on Fruit Street. The total number of beds at Mass. General will increase from 902 to 1,052, while the roster of operating rooms will grow from 52 to 71.

The project is expected to be completed by October 2011, and hospital administrators pledged that the new tower will be built to high environmental standards.

Regular crowding in the emergency room was cited as a prime reason for the expansion. Patients wait on average 7 to 8 hours in the hospital's bustling room because there aren't beds available elsewhere in the hospital to accept cases.

"If you ask me what keeps me awake at night, it's the fact that we have overcrowding in our emergency department," said Dr. Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency medicine at Mass. General. "Frankly, it gets very cramped. But emergency department overcrowding is not an emergency problem -- it's a hospital overcrowding problem."

As part of its deal with the state to win approval for the expansion, Mass. General is pledging to spend $18.6 million on community initiatives to address substance abuse, violence and healthcare disparities.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 11:27 AM
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