Prouty Garden fight continues

The fight to save the Prouty Garden continues, with supporters recently filing reports with the state Department of Public Health (DPH) saying that the planned expansion by Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is not needed. BCH’s construction plan will demolish the Prouty Garden.

BCH countered in a statement that says it currently lacks the capacity to meet an increasing need and that the expansion plans have been approved at every step required so far.

DPH did not respond to a request for comment.

DPH is currently reviewing BCH’s Determination of Need (DoN) for the construction project. The DoN program, established by the legislature in 1971, promotes the availability and accessibility of cost effective and high quality health care services to Massachusetts citizens, according to DPH. It also assists in controlling health care costs by eliminating duplication of expensive technologies, facilities, and services, according to DPH.

The DoN program evaluates proposals and makes recommendations to the Public Health Council for approval or denial of the expenditures or new services, and the Public Health Council makes the final decision.

John A. Lynch, a financial advisor working for the Anne Gamble Ten Taxpayer group, which is made up of members of the Friends of the Prouty Garden, filed a report with DPH stating that BCH volume has been declining, with further declines projected for children’s hospitals across the country. He writes that that “disproves [BCH’s] expectation of increasing service area volume to justify its unprecedented expansion project.”

Lynch also states that BCH relies on the growing needs of out-of-state and international patients to justify its proposed expansion. But, Lynch writes, DPH does not have the “means to evaluate such demand” and that the DoN program does not authorize such an action.

“There’s nothing paradigm-breaking about [BCH’s] massive bricks-and-mortar proposal to replace and expand its current inpatient and outpatient facilities—the largest such proposed project in Massachusetts history,” Lynch writes. “What this proposed project represents instead is the ‘same old same old’—refusing to leverage the actual paradigm-breaking potential of telemedicine and other digital-age technologies to reduce or maintain rather than double the size of its physical infrastructure.”

Lynch’s report also says that BCH failed to properly evaluate alternatives to the current expansion plan.

Rob Graham, spokesperson for BCH, released a statement saying, “Boston Children’s Hospital plays a critical role in the Commonwealth’s health care system. Boston Children’s treats the most complex patients, which allows hospitals from across the state including, Boston’s AMCs, to transfer children to Boston Children’s to get the care they need.

“We face a lack of capacity to meet increasing needs. Over the years, many site options were considered. Other site options were rejected because they were ill-suited to meet the increasing need for capacity and BCH’s programmatic goals.”

The statement went on to list the details of BCH’s proposal, which include:

  • – a 12-story inpatient tower
  • – 71 new beds, including 6 additional neonatal intensive care unit beds and 4 additional psychiatry beds
  • – 4 new operating rooms, 3 of which support the proposed Heart Center
  • – 3 new magnetic resonance imagers, including one which will be a combined imager/operating room
  • – 202,000-square-feet space in Brookline that will be used for outpatient care
  • – a 25 percent increase in green space, including a ¼ acre ground level garden named the “Anne and Olivia Prouty’s Wishingstone Garden.”

“The plans are being vetted through the required public processes, which have included numerous public meetings,” the statement continued. “The plans have been approved at every stage in the process to date, including by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Zoning Commission, Boston Civic Design Commission, the Boston Landmark Commission, and the mayor.”

According to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society website, the Prouty Garden was a gift from Olive Higgins Prouty, a local author, and opened in 1956. It is described as a “small pocket garden” and as a “quiet oasis” located behind BCH’s main building. The garden, designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm, is modeled after the terrace and garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The Friends of the Prouty Garden had petitioned the Boston Landmarks Commission to landmark the garden. That petition was rejected by a 7-1 vote. The group hired a law firm and asked the AGO to stop the demolition, saying it goes against the terms of Prouty’s gift and her will. AGO has the authority to make sure funds to a charity are properly used. AGO declined to intervene. Anne Gamble Ten Taxpayer group is also currently suing DPH and BCH over the expansion project.


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