Mass General Brigham receives state approval for $2B in hospital expansions

Updated on May 5, 11:30 a.m.

Mass General Brigham (MGB) has received state regulatory approval for a trimmed down, $2 billion-plus expansion for two of its major hospitals.

The Massachusetts Public Health Council signed off on the system’s requests during a Wednesday meeting. The news comes less than a month after MGB called off a controversial $223.7 million plan to build new outpatient surgical centers due to push back from state watchdogs and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The approved projects include $150 million for renovations and the addition of 78 beds at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital as well as $1.9 billion for two connected towers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

The system’s various expansion plans had been dinged by critics as a likely driver of higher healthcare spending within the state. Of note, these concerns led the council to turn down a request for 94 new licensed beds at MGH.

"The two new buildings at MGH and the addition of new inpatient floors at the Faulkner will significantly enhance our ability to provide the highest level of care for patients, increasing access and enhancing the care experience," MGB president and CEO Anne Klibanski, M.D., said in a statement to local press. "[MGB] is committed to working in partnership with the state to lower the cost of healthcare in Massachusetts, while building a new continuum of care, ultimately improving patient health outcomes."

The council’s approval is conditional and requires that the two hospitals report new annual data on patient transfers and contribute more than $100 million toward community health initiatives.  

April 7, 1:00 p.m.

MGB has pulled back on a controversial $223.7 million plan to build three outpatient surgical centers in the communities outside of Boston, according to a Boston Globe report.

The health system withdrew the plans after it could not receive an endorsement for the centers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, according to a statement from Mass General Brigham cited in the report.

“Mass General Brigham remains dedicated to transforming care delivery so that our patients receive the right care in the right place at a lower cost,” Mass General Brigham CEO Anne Klibanski said in a statement cited by the Globe. “We will continue to honor our commitment to provide the best care to the 227,000 patients we currently serve at Mass General Brigham affected by the Department of Public Health’s decision.’

The project, which Mass General Brigham said in its announcements and ad campaigns would reduce healthcare spending by providing higher-quality care outside of the city, had faced months of stiff resistance from local social services, health equity and provider organizations, such as Worcester, Massachusetts-based safety net system UMass Memorial Health Care.

In November, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office released a report outlining potential factors of the expansion that could contribute to higher future costs for state regulators to “consider” during their analysis.

A few months later the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC), a state watchdog agency, released its own findings indicating the project would “likely” increase healthcare spending, drive a “substantial” amount of patient volume and revenue away from lower-cost providers and negatively impact healthcare access, equity and market function.

Per the health system’s initial proposal, the three centers in Massachusetts’ Westborough, Woburn and Westwood communities would have provided ambulatory surgery alongside a blend of primary care, behavioral health and specialty care.

While the outpatient surgical centers may be off the table, Mass General Brigham is still moving ahead with its other planned expansions—$1.9 billion toward two new towers at Mass. General Hospital and $150.1 million to renovate and expand Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. Both were also cited in HPC’s report as potential drivers in case spending but received the Department of Public Health’s blessing.