A garden is at heart of dispute over Boston Children's expansion

Boston Children's Hospital, the region's dominant pediatric healthcare provider, has long struggled with capacity. Clinicians and executives say the persistent problem of not having enough hospital beds and needing to delay surgeries or turn patients away justifies their plans for a $1.5 billion expansion plan. But not everyone agrees. 

Boston Children's Hospital has proposed plans to build an 11-story inpatient tower at its Longwood campus and an eight-story outpatient building in Brookline. In a Feb. 11 letter, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked the hospital to outline how its $1.5 billion expansion plans won't ultimately contribute to the rising costs of healthcare in the state.

Opposition to the project stems from a more emotional place for other opponents, according to The Boston Globe. Another group of people object to the construction because the new tower designed for the Longwood campus would be built over the Prouty Garden, which has served as a restful sanctuary for innumerable sick and dying children and their families.

"The hospital is out of touch. I don't think they totally see what they're going to lose," said Beecher Grogan, whose daughter, Lucy, enjoyed playing in the garden's grass before dying of leukemia at age 12. "They should absolutely build a building, but anywhere but there."

The group Friends of the Prouty Garden, backed by an anonymous donor, has raised enough money to buy full-page ads in The Boston Globe, hire a lawyer and enlist a public relations firm. It's launched an online petition to save the garden, and has already garnered nearly 14,000 signatures. Friends of the Prouty Gardens also has the support of some of the hospital's prominent physicians, such as T. Berry Brazelton, MD.

Hospital executives have defended the location for the proposed new tower, saying they examined at least nine other scenarios before deciding the Prouty Gardens was the optimal area.

"We looked at the cost-effectiveness, we looked at the time it would take, we looked at what it would bring us in terms of patient care," said Kevin Churchwell, MD, COO of Children's. "When we put it all on the grid, the building that we're going to build really fit the best."

Boston Children's executives said they are planning to build three green spaces into their expanded campus in place of the Prouty Gardens — one on the rooftop, an outdoor garden and an indoor garden, according to the report.

A public hearing on the debate will take place Thursday before the Department of Public Health. At that time, Boston Children's will present to the DPH an independent study that shows the projected effects the expansion would have on healthcare costs.

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