UVM Medical Center seeks to build an outpatient surgery center

The Fanny Allen campus of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Colchester on Tuesday, October 22, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

The University of Vermont Medical Center hopes to replace the operating rooms on the Fanny Allen campus with a new outpatient surgery center in South Burlington.

UVM Medical Center filed a letter of intent with the Green Mountain Care Board on July 16. The board of directors has the authority to approve all hospital construction projects estimated at $ 30 million or more. The council will determine if the hospital can afford the construction. UVM Medical Center must also demonstrate that the project meets a real need for health care.

History suggests that the Green Mountain Care Board is likely to approve the project. He has refused only one investment request since the council was created 10 years ago.

UVM medical center officials say the size and scope of the new surgical center is yet to be determined, but estimate that the planning process itself will cost nearly $ 5 million. The letter essentially asks for permission from the state agency to go ahead with more detailed project plans.

The new outpatient center would be located on Tilley Drive in South Burlington, where UVM Medical Center already has several specialty clinics.

UVM Medical Center’s lease for a seven-room operating room on the Fanny Allen campus in Colchester runs until September 2026. However, these operating rooms have not been used since November 2020 due to air quality issues that made medical staff nauseous and dizzy.

Neal Goswami, spokesperson for the medical center, said consultants had been called in to investigate what was making staff sick, but they still haven’t found a conclusive explanation.

The letter from the medical center indicates that it had planned to “at least partially reopen these facilities in the short term”, but Fanny Allen’s age and design of the facility make it unsuitable. Surgeries such as joint replacements and spinal fusion, which can now be performed on an outpatient basis, require large amounts of imaging equipment in the operating room as well as machines to increase airflow and prevent infections.

The letter from the hospital states that these parts do not fit in Fanny Allen’s operating rooms and that the design cannot be corrected by renovations.

Stand-alone surgical centers typically allow hospitals to perform more procedures at a lower cost, said Elizabeth Munnich, associate professor of economics at the University of Louisville. Most of the surgeries performed at these centers are elective and scheduled, so they are easier to plan as there will be no disruption to the hospital emergency room.

Munnich said that, compared to surgeries performed at the main hospital, “it will almost always be cheaper from the patient’s point of view, in terms of facility costs, to have the surgery performed at a surgical center. “.

She said surgical centers are also generally very profitable for hospitals.

Goswami said the new construction would be paid for with capital funds, but did not specify where that funding would come from. John M. Brumsted, president and CEO of UVM Health Network, was not available for comment.

UVM Medical Center also plans to expand the emergency department, increase hospital beds in psychiatry, consolidate the facilities of neonatal intensive care units and relocate certain specialized clinics.

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