Is NMC’s Master Facility Plan Moving Full Steam Ahead?

Yes! The entire NMC team was very excited that the Green Mountain Care Board approved the Certificate of Need applications for both major projects coming out of our Master Facility Plan last week. This is a huge step forward for these exceptional projects. We continue to move full steam ahead on this important advancement of care and enhancement of our healing environment for our community. We are in the midst of the permitting processes in Vermont and are finalizing the design process so we can take the projects out to bid. We continue to press forward towards an anticipated groundbreaking in the Spring of 2016!

As you may remember, the first of those projects involves: the conversion to all private rooms for our Medical Surgical and Intensive Care units and their integration into a single efficient unit; the further centralization of our patient registration areas; the expansion of our Medical Cardiology and Pulmonary practices to keep pace with community need; the relocation of Northwestern OB/GYN into the same building as the Family Birth Center; and the creation of efficient, flexible space to re-establish needed part-time medical specialty clinics for appropriate specialty care (hopefully including Neurology, Rheumatology, Endocrinology, etc.). The second major project involves the construction of a new Medical Office Building attached to the main hospital at the front of our campus. This will provide efficient new space for Northwestern Primary Care and Northwestern Urgent Care right at our front door – improving visibility and accessibility, further de-emphasizing the costly non-emergent use of NMC’s Emergency Department. It also provides wonderful new space to accommodate the growth at Northwestern Orthopaedics. The new Medical Office Building will have an embedded x-ray suite efficiently shared by Primary Care, Urgent Care, and Orthopaedics. It will have a specially designed phlebotomy area, so individuals who just need to pop in for a blood draw can easily do so. In consideration of future needs, the Medical Office Building will have a shelled second floor. That space will be enclosed and look finished from outside, but it will not be “built out” inside. In the future, as community needs grow and change, we will have the opportunity to use that space to meet that need without having to start from scratch with construction. This represents a significant future cost savings and a tremendous reduction of disruption in our future.

These projects reflect NMC’s strategic efforts to adapt our facility to growing community needs and a changing healthcare environment. We need to provide an exceptional inpatient care, and at the same time, be able to provide exceptional outpatient care as approximately 80% of what we do is now outpatient! We need greater integration and efficiency. These projects take us there.

We continue to move through the local and State permitting processes. As the NMC campus – and these projects – spans the City/Town municipal boundary, we have permitting in both of our St. Albans communities. As I write this piece, we are preparing for an important water and wastewater allocation hearing on Monday, December 14th which directly impacts the feasibility of the Medical Office Building. We have worked closely with Town leaders and City leaders and other members of our community on this aspect of the project and are very hopeful that we can indeed achieve consensus on allowing this vitally important project to move forward despite ongoing municipal conversations about water and wastewater.

This is just one of the many permitting issues we need to navigate for this project. We are working through the Act 250 process and the Stormwater process. We are concerned that there are not firm timelines established for the Stormwater permitting process within Vermont, as that creates a concerning level of uncertainty. We are working hard to ensure our application meets all the requirements and can be processed expeditiously so these projects can advance on time and on budget.

It is so exciting to see these projects continue to move forward. We are totally grateful for the support of our vision and building plans from our Medical Staff, our own staff, the Green Mountain Care Board, and our community! It has been so overwhelming to hear and feel the support for our local health care system from the communities we serve. The future is filled with complexity in how healthcare will be provided. With the vote of confidence on this project we will be here for the long term continuing to pave the way for the best healthcare system that is accessible to all providing the  highest quality and the lowest cost possible. Serving this community means everything to us.

Thank you for your active support of our future plans.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer