By Curt Peterson
Over 100 people attended Rutland Regional Medical Center’s groundbreaking ceremony for its new facility, on Monday, April 22. The Thomas W. Huebner Medical Office Building will house ear, eye, nose and throat, audiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation and the Vermont Orthopedic Clinic.
The 3,700 square foot building will cost $23.8 million, according to the RRMC news release. Site work has already begun and construction is scheduled to be completed by June 2020, with the project closed out by February 2021.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided a low interest financing loan for the entire expansion, RRMC media spokesperson Peg Bolgioni told the Mountain Times. Anthony Linardos, Vermont/New Hampshire state director, said USDA support is part of the department’s Rural Development program, which invests $200 million annually in Vermont.
“People ask us why we are investing in new facilities when other hospitals are suffering financially,” RRMC CEO Claudio Fort said. “I tell them it’s because Vermonters need healthcare services, and if we don’t provide them they will go to New Hampshire, Massachusetts or New York to get the care they need.”
Later in the program Dr. Melbourne Boynton, chief medical director, said there are more than three times as many patients requiring the services that will be provided in the new building as the current facilities are designed to handle.
Gov. Phil Scott, who separated from his well-known family-owned construction business when he took office, said “With all this big equipment around I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Referring to RRMC’s management success, Scott said healthcare costs are the single largest expense for many Vermont households, and Rutland’s facility is a leader in reforming the system. The hospital was one of the first to adopt a new federal healthcare provider model based on medical outcomes rather than fee-for-services, saving $860,000 in healthcare costs its first year.
Praising RRMC’s former CEO of 21 years Tom Huebner, the new building’s namesake, Scott labeled him a “statewide leader”. Scott said he had called on Huebner to help save Springfield Hospital from recent financial difficulties.
Every event includes some humor. Most RRMC’s groundbreaking ceremony laughs were created about, or by, Huebner himself.
Joe Kraus, vice-president of the RRMC board of directors, quipped that architects had to extend the new building 20 feet beyond the original plan to accommodate “The Thomas W. Huebner Medical Office Building” name in its entirety. Kraus added that Huebner’s name on the building was the unanimous board choice.
Huebner said a friend of his had asked him, “Don’t they usually wait until you’re dead before they name a building after you?”
“Buildings are important, but the patients really don’t care about the bricks,
Huebner remarked. “It’s the caring they get when they walk in the door that’s important to them.”
Rep. Peter Welch agreed, compared healthcare to electricity – people expect lights to come on when they flip a switch – they don’t want to know exactly how it works.
“The patients just want to know the healthcare system is there when they need it,” Welch said. “It’s our job to make sure it is.”
He said it’s the staff who actually provide the care who are to be thanked for the success of the hospital.
Dr. Boynton elaborated. “This building is not about making us look good,” he said. “It’s about making our patients better.”