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  January 22, 2002

New Surgery Center
Planned at Farmington
By Kristina Goodnough

The UConn Health Center has teamed up with a private management company and prepared a proposal to build a new ambulatory surgery center that will expand its operating room services and meet the growing health care needs of the Farmington Valley.

The new surgery center will also be the centerpiece of the Health Center's musculoskeletal program, an initiative to highlight and expand research in bone biology, biomaterials, biomechanics and osteoporosis, and clinical programs in arthritis and orthopedics, including sports medicine and joint replacement.

The musculoskeletal program has been designated as one of the Health Center's signature programs, which link areas of research excellence with areas of clinical excellence.

"Our existing operating room capacity is strained," says Steven Strongwater, associate dean for clinical affairs and director of John Dempsey Hospital. "Meanwhile, the demand for ambulatory surgery services in the Farmington Valley and West Hartford, which is our primary service area, is growing. The population in the area is increasing and it's aging. Both factors create a need for more ambulatory surgery services," he says.

"It's important to upgrade our existing services," adds Dr. Strongwater. "But the really exciting part of the new surgery center is the jump-start it gives our musculoskeletal program. It will help us broaden our clinical research and expand our clinical services in an area where we have already achieved expertise."

The proposed center will be located in a separate building to be constructed on the Farmington campus. It will house five operating rooms, space for pre- and post-anesthesia care and administrative offices. The surgery center will be a joint venture between the Health Center and Health Resources International, a private West Hartford company that develops and manages ambulatory surgery centers around the country. Together, they have applied for a certificate of need from the Office of Health Care Access. All health care facilities in the state must obtain a certificate of need before developing, expanding or closing certain services and spending more than $1 million on a capital project. The new ambulatory surgery center is estimated to cost about $5.6 million.

Once the new center is in place, the Health Center will be able to upgrade its existing operating rooms, which were built in 1972, and devote them primarily to inpatient surgical services. "Renovation will enable us to meet more recent regulatory requirements and to accommodate new technologies," says Strongwater.

"We believe we have demonstrated a compelling need for this facility in the Farmington Valley," he adds. "Not only will it will serve the community, but it will provide the kind of clinical and research facilities essential to the mission of the university and its ability to attract, recruit and retain faculty."

The Office of Health Care Access is expected to consider the application for the project within the next couple of months.

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