Yes, I believe so. The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) regulates Vermont hospital’s budgets, including holding approval authority for major capital projects. On October 22nd, the GMCB held the official public hearing regarding two Certificate of Need (CON) applications for projects within NMC’s Master Facility Plan. The first proposed project will convert NMC’s Medical/Surgical and Intensive Care Unit inpatient beds to all private rooms. It also provides for greater centralization of registration and the space needed to re-establish needed medical clinics for specialized preventive care at our front entrance. The second proposed project creates an attached Medical Office Building to bring Primary Care, Northwestern Urgent Care, and Northwestern Orthopaedics to the front of our campus in space that will allow them to keep pace with community need. The discussion with the GMCB at the public hearing was encouraging. I sensed they could see how our proposals align with a reasonable forecast of the needs of our community and the efficiency and flexibility NMC will need to adapt to that changing future.
I want to thank the entire NMC team for the effort they have invested in developing these proposed projects. It clearly shows their passion for exceptional patient care. Members of the NMC Management staff, Medical Staff, and Board of Directors attended the presentation in a show of support and to help answer questions. Board Chair John Hango and Finance Committee Chair Patrick Talcott both spoke strongly at the hearing. In addition, I want to thank our community for the ongoing support of local healthcare and NMC’s efforts. We were very fortunate to have community members attend the public hearing and share their perspectives. Former State Auditor Randy Brock described the projects as a wise investment. Tim Smith of Franklin County Industrial Development spoke of the importance of a strong hospital in the recruitment of new employers to the region. Dave Southwick of the Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce touched on the important involvement of the hospital in efforts to improve the quality of life. Emerson Lynn of the St. Albans Messenger described the projects as community projects rather than solely hospital projects. We have invested a number of years in developing and refining these projects and that investment showed in the unity at the hearing.
The CON process is intense and thorough and meant to avoid unnecessary duplication of services or investment. The public hearing comes after many months of information exchange on these projects with the GMCB issuing sets of programmatic, clinical, financial, and technical questions regarding our applications. They push to ensure projects align with the needs of the community and the future direction of healthcare while promoting quality improvement and an enhanced patient experience while being financially affordable and appropriate. Our team has worked hard to provide clear answers to each of those questions, challenging efforts which helped set us up for a successful public hearing. After the 10 day public comment period, the GMCB has up to four months to render decisions. They typically act more quickly than that. We are hopeful to have their decisions before the end of this calendar year so that we can move forward with the start of construction in the Spring of 2016.
At the same time, we are hosting a series of our own public forums on the project. We have presented our plans in St. Albans, Swanton, and Enosburg. We have one more scheduled in this series, on November 17 at 7pm at the North Hero School. It has been a pleasure to meet with members of our community to explain our plans and answer questions. I want to thank everyone who has attended those forums, including neighbors, Legislators, community partners, and members of the general public. I have left each meeting encouraged that we are indeed on the right path with projects which meets current and future needs, keep pace with the changes in healthcare, improve quality, and are structured to be affordable through the prudent financial preparation of our Board with the strong support of our community.
We now await word on approval. My thanks again to all who have worked so hard on preparing our community hospital for our shared future. I look forward to writing a future column to invite you to a groundbreaking celebration in the Spring!
— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer