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  April 1, 2002

Officials Present Case for New
Surgical Center at Public Hearing
By Kristina Goodnough

The Health Center has restated its need for a new, free-standing building to house an ambulatory surgery center and its new Musculoskele tal Institute, before the Office of Health Care Access, the state agency charged with monitoring Connecticut's health care delivery system.

The statement, which was made to the state agency at the opening of the first public hearing March 15, summarized testimony presented by Health Center officials and representatives of the Health Center's private partner, Health Resources International.

The new $5.6 million building, if approved, would house five operating rooms, space for pre-and post-anesthesia care, and administrative offices.

It would also house the Musculoskeletal Institute, a new initiative by the Health Center 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 Institute, however, is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Office of Health Care Access which, through administering the certificate of need program for hospitals and health care facilities, assists in planning while limiting excess capacity.

Steven Strongwater, hospital director and director of clinical operations, testified that inpatient surgery at John Dempsey Hospital grew 24 percent between 1998 and 2001, while ambulatory surgery grew 33 percent during the same time.

"We foresee a continuing increase in the need for ambulatory surgery, because of demographics and the changing nature of medicine," said Dr. Strongwater, in his testimony before the agency. Meanwhile, he added, the hospital is already running its current operating facilities at full capacity and simply needs more space.

The Musculosketal Institute is an exciting new initiative, according to testimony by Peter Deckers, dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for health affairs. "It will help us directly link our research with our clinical programs, so we can take the discoveries we make in the lab and use them for treating patients," Dr. Deckers said.

University President Philip E. Austin called the programs "vital" to the University's academic mission, in his testimony before the state agency. "If we are going to continue to grow as a center of intellect and ingenuity, we cannot rely solely on state appropriations," Austin said. "We must also explore new and innovative partnerships that can help us achieve our goals with greater speed and with less reliance on government funding."

Others who testified during the first part of the hearing were Bernard Kershner, chairman of Health Resources International, the partner in the project; Kevin Shea, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the Health Center; and Allen Hahn, of Standard & Poor's Northeast Region Corporate Value Consulting Group.

If the public hearing is completed on April 5, the Office for Health Care Access has until May 2 to reach a decision on the project.

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