June 1st, 2017

Office building to become new psychiatric hospital

In April, UMass Memorial Health Care partnered with US HealthVest to build a new 120-bed psychiatric hospital in the Burncoat section of Worcester. US HealthVest currently operates psychiatric hospitals in Georgia, Illinois and Washington State.

The partnership between UMass Memorial and US HealthVest is the indirect result of an existing relationship. Richard A. Kresch, M.D., US HealthVest president and CEO, explained that he also directs CareWell Urgent Care Centers in Massachusetts, a joint venture with UMass Memorial.

“We got to know each other that way. UMass expressed an interest in developing a psychiatric hospital,” he said. “We have been doing de novo startups. We are just finishing our eighth new hospital and have experience with all issues that come up.”

When searching for an appropriate site for the new facility, both parties preferred to renovate an existing structure rather than building new, according to Kresch. “We also wanted it to be near the medical center. The building had to be the right size and configuration to be retrofitted. The building at 100 Century fits all the specs,” he said.

The new hospital will have 120 beds and a variety of practitioners including psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, family practice physicians and others, Kresch said. “We may hire eight or 10 FTEs (full time equivalents), and maybe more actual physicians,” he added.

Services in the new hospital will range from geriatric, male and female adult, adolescent and possibly children, depending on needs assessments, according to Kresch. “There will be 24 by 7 coverage on the medical side. The number of social workers and psychologists will depend on outpatient and day hospital programs. Our expectation is that all or most physicians would be UMass Memorial faculty,” he said, noting that the psychiatric ICU will accept high-acuity patients.

Both UMass and US HealthVest stand to benefit from this partnership, according to Kresch. He explained that the hospital will expand the size of psychiatric services at UMass. “It will provide a central location place where the psychiatric department can have offices and conduct teaching for students, residents and interns. Their psych unit now is smaller than the need,” he said. “UMass is a tertiary hospital for Central Massachusetts and they will see a huge value. This hospital will add capacity.”

Kresch said, “This is a great opportunity to blend the academic and management sides. We’re taking the best of both skill sets. It will be somewhat unique. The only other freestanding hospital is McLean so this will be a real asset to the central part of the state.”

The facility is expected to open at the end of 2018.

By Phyllis Hanlon

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