August 29, 2008

ROOM TO OPERATE ; Milton Hospital Finishes Up Expansion Project As CEO Considers What’s Next



MILTON - Fewer than 10 miles from the largest teaching hospitals in New England, Milton Hospital finds its niche in staying small. But that hasn't stopped the 81-bed hospital from embarking on a major expansion project, which it plans to complete by year's end.

Milton Hospital President and CEO Joseph Morrissey said the hospital's current expansion is less about growing larger than it is about improving its quality in meeting the demands of a growing community.

The 54-year-old Norwell resident was named president of the hospital in 2003, after serving 15 years as its vice president of financial services. Now, as the hospital approaches the final months of a $40 million project that has increased the 600-employee hospital's square footage by 27,000 square feet to a total of 180,000 square feet, Morrissey is already focusing on the next step in the hospital's growth.

What was the tipping point that told you it was time to expand?

The tipping point came in both the endoscopy area and in the emergency room. When emergency room visits here got to around 19,000 a year - the facility had been built back in 1984 for 15,000 to 16,000 - we were seeing a lot of squeeze, trying to move patients through quickly. Most of that came in the late '90s and early 2000s when we grew significantly in Randolph. We became the No. 1 service hospital for the town of Randolph. ... That, coupled with the growth we're seeing in colonoscopies.

In 2005, you announced an expanded affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess. Why were you interested in building an affiliation with the Boston hospital?

Milton Hospital has always succeeded because we know what we are - we're a small community hospital within 10 minutes of some of the best hospitals in the world. ... The younger baby boomers - people in their 40s and 50s - have selected physicians at the large teaching hospitals because of their draw.

We realized that in order for patients to see us as an alternative, they have to feel comfortable that if they come to Milton Hospital, the care we'd provide would be the best care. And for the care we didn't provide, they would have a superhighway right to a great teaching hospital, and that's Beth Israel Deaconess.

What role do you see Milton Hospital playing in the broader South Shore health care community?

I think we play an important role for our service area. And when I talk about our service area, our three majors are Milton, Quincy and Randolph. ... We have a population base in Milton, Randolph and Quincy that want the smaller hospital.

What role do you expect for Milton Hospital to play going forward?

We're really investing a lot of money in geriatrics medicine right now. We just brought on a second geriatrician and we'll probably bring on a third before the year is out. We see that the "old elderly" - 85-plus - is the fastest growing population in the United States. And they have specific needs. And then the "medium elderly," which is 75 to 85, they're quickly growing because the baby boomers are aging into that. So we see a big demand for that.

We think our role is to take care of those patients in an inpatient setting, and to take care of younger patients on an outpatient setting - that's why we (expanded) the OR, the endoscopy and the ER, because younger patients are usually not going to be inpatients, they're going to be testing. ... And then as they move into their older age, they'll select Milton Hospital because now they don't want to go into town anymore (because) it's a pain.

When people need inpatient care more than once every five to 10 years, they don't want to go to an in-town hospital because then their loved ones have to drive into town and find a place to park, so that's when they begin to look at community hospitals. So we see our niche to get really strong in geriatric medicine and to provide outpatient services to those patients who will soon become our inpatients.

What's your next step for expansion?

Seventy-five percent of our rooms are semi-private rooms. That younger population, me included, when I go to the hospital, I don't want to be in a semi-private room. I want to be in a private room. So I think the next large program we would do would be an in- patient bed expansion. Not so much an expansion over 81 beds, but just make them all private beds.

A.J. Bauer may be reached at [email protected]

Originally published by By A.J. BAUER, The Patriot Ledger.

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