The Examiner

County LCD Approves Funding for W’chester Med Center Expansion

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An artist’s rendering of the 0 million ambulatory care pavilion that is scheduled to open before the end of 2018.
An artist’s rendering of the $230 million ambulatory care pavilion that is scheduled to open before the end of 2018.

Westchester Medical Center was approved Wednesday for tax-exempt, low-cost financing on a new $230 million ambulatory care pavilion adjacent to its main hospital that promises significant upgrades in delivering healthcare to patients.

The county’s Local Development Corporation (LDC), which was created by County Executive Rob Astorino in 2013 to encourage nonprofits to build important projects and stimulate the economy, granted up to $340 million in borrowing for the medical center for the eight-story, 280,000-square-foot addition at the Valhalla campus. The project will include 185,000 square feet of ambulatory care space, 20,000 square feet for 48 private patient rooms and 75,000 feet for physician offices.

The board of directors for WMCHealth, the network that operates the hospital and six other facilities in the Hudson Valley, approved the project last month. It is expected to open by late 2018.

Michael Israel, president and CEO of WMCHealth, said it will allow Westchester Medical Center to serve a wider population of patients more effectively. It has focused mainly on its trauma and tertiary care, one of the only facilities north of New York City to deliver those services, but leaves little time and space to help other patients.

“It gives us the ability to deliver ambulatory services in a way our patients and in a way our physicians want to deliver them,” Israel said. “The medical center itself has been more in-patient, advanced care focused. The health care system is changing, we have to change along with the system.”

The ambulatory care pavilion will include an advanced imaging center, an ambulatory surgery center and a heart and vascular institute, Israel said. Westchester Medical Center, built in 1977, is often so busy dealing with emergencies that a patient who comes in for a 9 a.m. surgery, for example, may have to wait hours for their procedure to be done, he said.

Also, the hospital is typically only able to use about 85 percent of its 415 beds because some patients require such advanced care that a private room is necessary.

Once the new pavilion is built, medical center staff anticipates being able to use 100 percent of its beds, Israel said. The hospital will maintain its license with the state at 415 beds, he added.

“It gives us more space to do more things going forward,” Israel said. “There’s not much available space in the hospital.”

Astorino lauded the proposal as one that will raise the quality of health care in Westchester and throughout the region as well as spur the local economy. The project is expected to generate 225 prevailing wage construction jobs and an additional 180 permanent full-time staff jobs.

“I appreciate this. I appreciate the investment you’re making in Westchester,” Astorino told Israel. “This is a great project that will help everyone not only in Westchester but the counties around us. In fact, the whole metropolitan area.”

He said the county had to work to amend legislation to include a public benefit corporation, such as the medical center, to be eligible for the low-cost financing. Previously, nonprofits had only been able to receive the LDC funding. The financing comes at no risk to the county and its taxpayers, Astorino added.

By the time the ambulatory care pavilion is built, Westchester Medical Center would have invested almost $1 billion in infrastructure, technology and expansion on the Valhalla campus in a little more than a decade, Israel noted. It also operates the 136-bed Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and the 101-bed Behavioral Health Center for psychiatric patients. Israel said the children’s hospital has been operating above capacity and will also likely need an expansion to at least 175 beds in the coming years.

In addition to the $230 million in financing for the new construction, the additional money of up to $110 million will also include $44 million in other capital projects and possibly re-funding $52 million in bonds.

Astorino said the medical center project will also fit in well with the proposed North 60, that would be on mostly on county land near the site. That project calls for more than a couple million square feet of mixed uses, including science and medical research space.

“It really signifies that Westchester is a hub for healthcare, great healthcare, in the New York metropolitan region,” Astorino said.







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