News & Events

New ER put on fast track at Samaritan

By Johanna Seltz, Globe Correspondent  |  April 15, 2010

While some hospitals are delaying expansion plans because of the weak economy and uncertain impact of the health care overhaul, Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton is accelerating construction of a new emergency room, digging into the deep financial pockets of its anticipated new owner.

“We are full steam ahead,’’ said Monique Aleman, vice president of marketing and communications for Good Samaritan. “Things are looking very positive, especially in this community where the emergency room was originally built in 1968 and we see 54,000 patients a year. We average 40 ambulances coming in a day.’’

Good Samaritan is part of Caritas Christi hospital chain, which is being bought by Cerberus Capital Management. As part of the sales agreement, Cerberus agreed to spend about $400 million on capital projects at the six Caritas hospitals in Massachusetts.

While the sale still needs final approval from the state and archdiocese, Aleman said Good Samaritan officials expect everything to be completed within the next six months. “We have a lot of confidence that due diligence has been performed . . . and are extremely optimistic that this [sale] will be welcomed,’’ she said.

Good Samaritan was working on the first phase of replacing its emergency room — moving the doctors’ parking lot to make room for the new building — while working on financing the $30 million project, Aleman said.

The infusion of cash from Cerberus pushed the schedule forward, she said. A groundbreaking will take place this month, and construction is to take 16 months, she said.

The new emergency room will include private rooms and designated areas for pediatrics, trauma, infection control, and behavioral health. The existing ER will remain open while the new one is built, Aleman said.

Meanwhile, at least one hospital in this area is tapping on the brakes on its plans for growth. South Shore Hospital in Weymouth says it is delaying its $52 million expansion because of the economy and the uncertainty over effects of the federal overhaul of the health care system.

“We’re in a good financial situation right now, very stable, but we’d like to see the economy bounce back a little more before we start,’’ said hospital spokesman Sarah Darcy. “We’re also looking at how the health care [law] will change the way hospitals are reimbursed — just like every other hospital in the nation is looking at it. That impacts our finances, so we are erring on the side of caution. We’re looking at spring of 2011 right now.’’

The hospital hoped to start construction this spring, adding 60 beds to the 385-bed facility.

Plans called for building a fifth and sixth floor — each with 25 private rooms — on top of the existing main building. A two-story addition would be built onto the side of the building, with another 10 rooms.

“They need the space,’’ said Joan Gorga, director of reviews construction proposals for the state Department of Public Health. “They are experiencing a very high occupancy rate — over 95 percent. People get sick regardless of the economy.’’

Originally, South Shore Hospital officials had told the state the bad economy encouraged them to move ahead with needed work. “Contractors are looking for work, so they are getting an excellent price,’’ Gorga said.

But the continued soft economy and uncertainty of the effects of the sweeping health insurance law caused hospital officials to pull back, Darcy said.

Joe Kirkpatrick, vice president of health care finance for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said he wasn’t surprised.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the air,’’ he said. “It’s not just health care reform, which has a number of Medicare reimbursement reductions coming our way. But there’s also what’s happening at the state level. There’s a lot of uncertainty over how hospitals will be repaid both in the short term and the long term.

“Add in the uncertainty about whether we are pulling out of the recession, and these are tough times for everybody — including hospitals,’’ he said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at