BCH expansion project given the green light

The Public Health Council voted to give Boston Children’s Hospital’s (BCH) expansion project the green light on Oct. 20, as part of the state’s Determination of Need (DoN) process.

The expansion project will lead to the destruction of the Prouty Garden. The Friends of the Prouty Garden group has waged a spirited campaign to save the green space and said it will appeal the council’s decision.

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 state Department of Public Health (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.

“The Public Health Council’s approval lays out a framework allowing Boston Children’s Hospital to upgrade their existing facilities and improve care for some of our most vulnerable children and their families, while incorporating unprecedented conditions and safeguards, including financial penalties and ongoing reporting, to prevent negative impacts on Massachusetts healthcare costs,” said DPH spokesperson Tom Lyons in a statement.

BCH did not respond to a request for comment.

Members of the Friends of the Prouty Garden group announced in a press release they are planning to appeal the council’s decision and are petitioning the state Health Facilities Appeals Board for a formal review, which would halt construction.

“The Public Health Council voted to allow the Boston Children’s Hospital’s expansion plan to move forward without any substantive or credible analysis of the consequences and despite what we believe are glaring deficiencies in the proper administration of the DoN review process. Indeed, the Health Policy Commission (HPC), a statutory party to the DoN process, for the first time ever had commented that there is ‘a likelihood’ the expansion will lead higher health care costs for the state and would jeopardize the continuing viability of at least one current competitive health care provider in Massachusetts,” said Gregor McGregor, the attorney for group, according to the press release.

BCH plans to replace the Prouty Garden and the 55 Shattuck St. building with a new clinical building at the corner of Shattuck Street and Meadow Lane on its main campus.

According to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society website, the 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.

Members of the Friends of the Prouty Garden also have a lawsuit attempting to stop the project, which is pending.

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