MassDevelopment

Editorial: Investment in Athol Hospital is great for community as a whole

April 4, 2018 : Athol Daily News


We saw another sign last week — a huge one — of prospects for positive growth and development in the North Quabbin region.

Athol Hospital received a $28,150,000 financing package from the state to build a 3-story medical building adjoining the hospital at 2033 Main St. This addition will expand the emergency department on the hospital’s first floor, add a rural health clinic on the second floor and provide office space on the third floor, which the hospital will lease to a local behavioral health services nonprofit.

These improvements represent a significant advance toward providing even better health care to our local residents — services they won’t have to travel outside the region to find.

The hospital will also use some of the money to build parking areas, make infrastructure improvements, renovate existing interiors and buy and install new equipment.

The state finance package essentially provides low-cost loans to fund this significant upgrade to the region’s medical facility. It’s gratifying to see the hospital’s parent company, Heywood Healthcare, investing such a huge sum in Athol. It says a lot about the region’s potential growth that both the state and the nonprofit health group are backing the investment of millions here.

Heywood Healthcare President and CEO Win Brown says North Quabbin communities deserve access to the highest quality care, “and we are providing that ...”

The expansion will bring a state-of-the-art emergency care center, complete with a new main entrance and radiology suite, provide for primary and multi-specialty medical practices on the second floor, and fully dedicate the third floor to outpatient behavioral health services.

Athol Hospital, the 25-bed nonprofit, is a designated critical access hospital serving the 9 communities of the North Quabbin and is a member of the Heywood Healthcare system, an independent, community-owned healthcare system serving north central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. It provides 24/7 emergency care, oncology, radiology and laboratory services, a diabetes center and the Center for Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.

The Heywood system includes Heywood Hospital, a nonprofit, 134-bed acute-care hospital in Gardner; the Quabbin Retreat in Petersham; and Heywood Medical Group, with primary care physicians and specialists located throughout the region.

MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss noted that the state, through its tax-exempt bond and New Markets Tax Credits programs, is “proud to lend a hand in Athol Hospital’s efforts to improve its facilities.”

MassDevelopment works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the state. And its backing of this project is a strong endorsement of the Athol area’s promising future. Athol and its environs have joined the long list of projects in the state deemed worthy of the state-supported investment.

Last year, it financed or managed 377 projects generating investment of more than $4.3 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are projected to create about 9,488 jobs and build or rehabilitate 1,863 residential units.

The hospital package includes an $11,150,000 tax-exempt bond, purchased by TD Bank, and a $17 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation.

It’s encouraging to see that both the Heywood group and the state economic development experts see the Athol area as a place worthy of investing millions to improve health care services and access. When developers and prospective businesses and residents scout a region, they look for quality education and health care facilities in making their decisions. And they will find it here.