By TODD SPANGLER
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
February 11, 2009
Tufts Medical Center and MetroWest Medical Center yesterday said they will collaborate to provide advanced pediatric care in MetroWest’s Framingham Union Hospital.
Doctors from the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston will boost the pediatrics department at Framingham Union Hospital with staff to oversee general care and with specialists for premature babies and children with complex medical needs.
The arrangement will allow MetroWest to care for infants and children with more serious conditions, instead of referring them to academic medical centers in Boston.
Andrei Soran, chief executive of MetroWest, said, "We recognize the need to keep specialized care close by in the community. I don’t have the ability to hire a specialist like a pediatric endocrinologist, but we do not want to become a train station where kids are seen in the emergency department and then shipped to Boston."
For Tufts Medical Center, the arrangement creates a new platform to extend the Floating Hospital brand name. It may need to hire more physicians to handle the workload at MetroWest.
MetroWest previously had a longstanding arrangement with Children’s Hospital, the nationally known pediatrics center in Boston’s Longwood Medical Center, to provide physicians.
"We’ve been in discussions with them for months regarding their desire to greatly expand their pediatric services from the current levels," said Michelle Davis, a Children’s spokeswoman. "We were unable to staff that with our physicians and still adequately staff our own facilities."
Ellen Zane, chief executive of Tufts Medical Center, said the new arrangement is different because more children will receive care at MetroWest, which charges lower rates for inpatient stays.
"This is a model that proves you can bring high-end services to the suburbs without being in competition with the local hospital, which will drive up costs," said Zane.
While the number of patients referred to Tufts Floating Hospital will be relatively small, she said, they will come from a part of the state where the hospital currently does not attract many patients. Floating Hospital for Children is part of Tufts Medical Center, which is located in Boston’s Chinatown.
Two years ago, Floating Hospital launched a similar partnership to provide pediatric care at Lowell General Hospital.
Floating Hospital also staffs newborn intensive care units at Lawrence General Hospital, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, and Signature Healthcare in Brockton.
Larger hospitals have been attempting to make inroads in the Framingham area, causing some residents and officials to worry about how community hospitals might be affected.
Newton-Wellesley Hospital, a unit of Partners HealthCare System Inc., has sought permission to open an outpatient and surgery center on Route 30 in Framingham. Newton-Wellesley has said the facility will shorten waiting times at its hospital in Newton, and is not intended to attract patients from nearby Framingham Union Hospital or Leonard Morse Hospital in Natick, both part of MetroWest Medical Center.
But town selectmen and MetroWest have fought against the proposal. Soran said the facility would represent "unfair competition" to MetroWest, and selectmen recently said they would write a letter urging Newton-Wellesley to abandon its plan.
The Framingham Planning Board has not yet issued a permit for the project. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19.