With patients clamoring for care, we have a plan

MGB executives say they had to turn away 5,000 patients last year

MASSACHUSETTS HAS THE BEST health care in the country, if not the world. But the groundbreaking cures, leading-edge therapies, highly specialized clinicians, novel treatments, and sophisticated technologies mean nothing if patients can’t access them.

The hospitals of Mass General Brigham, like all hospitals across the state, have been routinely operating over capacity since long before the pandemic. Patients line the hallways of emergency departments waiting for care, and they are too often denied admission to our hospitals because we simply don’t have enough room to treat them.

Last year, more than 20,000 patients from other hospitals sought the specialized and complex care that our hospitals provide, and, sadly, we had to say no to 25 percent of them – that is one of every four patients coming from other hospitals who we couldn’t help. And as we move out of the acute phase of this pandemic, we know these issues will only get worse. People who deferred care for serious but non-life-threatening conditions, a general population sicker than it was before the pandemic, and the still unknown long-term health impacts of COVID will all contribute to this unsustainable situation.

The inability to care for patients who look to us for help not only frustrates us as healthcare leaders, it also demoralizes our workforce – the incredible physicians, nurses, and other care providers who are dedicated to serving our patients.

Fortunately, we have a plan.

This plan, currently under review by the Department of Public Health, will enable us to help more people, treat their ailments, restore their health, and change their lives. To make meaningful difference in care delivery, however, we need regulatory approval of our plan to expand access to care across the Mass General Brigham system.

At Massachusetts General Hospital, we will replace aging infrastructure with modern facilities and more single-bed patient rooms, enabling us to care for more patients in an environment that offers the comfort and privacy they deserve. We will expand access to complex care, offering better treatment and hope to patients with the most challenging conditions.

At Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, we will add more beds, expand radiology and endoscopy services, and create a new dedicated infectious disease floor. This plan will allow us to increase access for more patients at Faulkner and transfer more patients out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, freeing up capacity at our academic medical centers to provide the kind of highly specialized care in which we excel, to even more patients.

Massachusetts ranks 48th in the country in providing lower-cost ambulatory care – nearly dead last. To decrease the number of patients seeking routine outpatient care at our two teaching hospitals in Boston, we will open two new ambulatory health centers in Woburn and Westborough and expand our current center in Westwood. These ambulatory centers will meet the needs of more than 227,000 existing Mass General Brigham patients in non-hospital settings. They will offer primary care, behavioral health, and specialty care – and they will reduce the cost of care for our patients by as much as 35 percent.

Meet the Author

David F. M. Brown

President / Executive vice president, Massachusetts General Hospital / Mass General Brigham
Meet the Author

Robert S. D. Higgins

President / Executive vice president, Brigham and Women's Hospital / Mass General Brigham
Nothing is more important to us than our patients. The trust they put in us is an enormous responsibility. We hope that those who will decide the fate of Mass General Brigham’s plan feel the same intense accountability to our patients’ needs. Approving Mass General Brigham’s plan to increase access to more complex care at Mass General and Brigham and Women’s and provide high quality outpatient care, closer to patients’ homes, at lower costs, is what our patients want, need, and deserve. It is time to put patients first.

David F. M. Brown is president of Massachusetts General Hospital and Robert S. D. Higgins is president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Both are executive Vice Presidents of Mass General Brigham.