Boston Children’s Hospital announced plans Thursday for a $435 million expansion in suburbs west and south of Boston to serve growing numbers of patients from across the state and around the world.
Hospital officials want to construct a new outpatient surgery center off Interstate 95 in Needham, spanning 224,000 square feet and five floors. They also plan to expand services at their existing site in Waltham and move their physician offices in Weymouth to a new medical office building in that community.
The new push is taking shape as Children’s is in the midst of a more than $1 billion expansion of its main campus in Boston’s Longwood neighborhood, where it is constructing an 11-story building with private patient rooms, an intensive care unit for newborns, new operating rooms, and more. The hospital will grow from 404 beds to 475 after the new building opens next year.
With its latest move, Children’s is following the same playbook as other hospital systems, including Mass General Brigham: moving specialty care and surgical procedures from crowded urban hubs to facilities more convenient for suburban families.
Dr. Kevin Churchwell, chief executive of Children’s Hospital, said that the hospital is seeing enough demand from patients to warrant the expansion and that the suburban sites will help alleviate congestion in Boston for families who live and need health services in the city.
“We think that is going to be extremely important in terms of access,” he said.
Churchwell said the goal is for most families to be within 20 minutes of a primary care physician or specialist in the Children’s Hospital network, which includes 677 doctors across Massachusetts.
Hospital officials need state approval to move forward with the projects and said they expect to file their plans with the Department of Public Health this summer.
In Needham, at a site beside the Tripadvisor building, Children’s plans to construct a facility that would offer surgery and imaging and specialty clinics in audiology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, and sports medicine.
“It’s that evolution of, how do we continue to move procedures that used to be inpatient procedures, three to five days [in the hospital], to an ambulatory procedure where the child goes home that day?” Churchwell said. “Our physicians, nurses, caregivers continue to lead and be on the cutting edge of that.”
In Weymouth, the hospital plans to offer new imaging, cardiac testing, physical therapy, and other services.
The expansion in Waltham would include an 18-bed infusion unit, imaging, a sleep program, and psychiatric programs. The hospital already has state approval to build a 12-bed inpatient psychiatry unit in Waltham.
The new plans could raise concerns: Children’s Hospital is the state’s biggest and most expensive pediatric health care provider, and its previous expansion project, though ultimately approved by the state, stirred controversy about whether the project would lead to higher health costs.
Matthew Kitsos, a spokesman for the Health Policy Commission, said the watchdog agency will closely review the hospital’s expansion plans.
“The HPC’s role is to oversee the Massachusetts health care system as a whole and consider the impacts of significant changes, positive and negative,” Kitsos said in a statement. “Recent plans for substantial expansions by several major providers are especially significant and warrant scrutiny.”
The commission is also studying a proposal by Mass General Brigham, the state’s biggest health care provider, to build three new surgery centers in Woburn, Westwood, and Westborough. That plan that is under fire from competitors who argue it will make Mass General Brigham too powerful.
Children’s Hospital collected $2.6 billion in revenue in the 2020 fiscal year, and its doctors treated 261,636 patients annually before the COVID-19 pandemic. It ranks first on the US News list of top pediatric hospitals in the country, a distinction that helps it draw patients from far outside Massachusetts.