Salem Hospital scales back expansion plan

The Salem News | By Paul Leighton
November 2, 2016

SALEM — Salem Hospital is scaling back its expansion project by $33 million, citing financial losses and the uncertain future of health care.

A hospital spokesman said the revised plan will reduce the project by 30 psychiatry beds and about 10 medical/surgical inpatient beds, and also eliminate plans for a new main entrance and lobby.

“It comes down to us trying to be a little more fiscally responsible in a crunch time of health care,” spokesman Kevin Ronningen said. “When you sit back and look at this from a demand perspective, it’s hard to tell what health care is going to be like three years from now (when the expansion is scheduled to be completed).”

Salem Hospital received state approval in July to build a new three-story building, renovate the former Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and create a new lobby.

Ronningen said hospital officials decided to downscale the project in part due to their difficult financial situation. North Shore Medical Center, which includes Salem Hospital and Union Hospital in Lynn and is owned by Partners HealthCare, lost $36 million last year, more than any hospital in Massachusetts. Union Hospital is scheduled to eventually close as part of the expansion in Salem.

“Partners and North Shore Medical Center are trying to be very cost conscious right now,” Ronningen said.

Under the new plan, the top floor of both the new three-story building and the renovated five-story Spaulding building will still be constructed but will be left as “shells” that could be equipped with beds at a future date.

A new emergency department will stretch across the first floors of both the new building and the adjacent Spaulding. The new building will also include 24 medical/surgical beds on the second floor. The Spaulding building will be turned into a mental health center, with a total of 90 psychiatry beds on three floors.

Construction was scheduled to begin this fall but has been put off until next spring, Ronningen said. The project is still scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2019, he said. The estimated project cost has gone from $240 million to $207 million.

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