Hartford Bone & Joint Aims to Capture National Market

A new Bone and Joint Institute is the first major construction on Hartford Hospital‘s campus in decades. The $150 million institute, which opened in December 2016, will help Hartford Hospital build a reputation for competing with recognized leaders in bone-and-joint surgery in New York and Boston, the hospital says.

Hundreds of workers have been on the job six days a week to meet the deadline for the 200,000-square-foot building, which straddles Seymour Street. The building’s two halves are joined by a skywalk, much the same as a ligament connects the bones of a joint. Shepard Steel supplied both the Structural and Miscellaneous steel for the project. Construction got underway in late 2014 on the institute, which will combine surgery, rehabilitation and research. The hospital’s bone-and-joint specialty now occupies its own space but within the main hospital building.

The institute was privately funded through $125 million in tax-exempt bonds, plus a $10 million equity investment from Hartford HealthCare and $18 million from philanthropy, including corporate donations from The Hartford, Travelers Cos. and Stanley Black & Decker. The construction comes as the state has reduced federal reimbursement on the tax paid by hospitals, which many are fighting.

Fred V. Carstensen, an economist at the University of Connecticut, said the institute should benefit from Hartford’s geographic locations in a bio-medical corridor that runs from Princeton, N.J. to Boston. That should make the institute attractive to companies that may want to move near the hospital to collaborate on orthopedic development projects, he said. But Carstensen said the state’s stance on the hospital tax could hamper future investments by the hospital.

A Unified Hospital Campus

The opening of the Bone and Joint Institute will free up space elsewhere in Hartford Hospital, allowing the creation of more private rooms and easing the squeeze on operating spaces. If the institute is financially successful — and the hospital believes it will be, given growth projections for orthopedic care, the institute will help fund future redevelopment on the 165-year-old campus, Flaks said. In the future, the hospital wants to create a campus bringing together all its major components, including the main hospital, the Bone and Joint Institute and the Institute of Living, which focuses on behavioral health, and the hospital’s academic corridor along Jefferson Street. One plan calls for closing the portion of Retreat Avenue that now separates the majority of the 70-acre campus from the Institute of Living.

“So we’re really creating an integrated campus that would rival any in the country, like the Texas Medical Center, major cities that have involved all their specialty capabilities like we are doing here in Hartford,” Flaks said. The progress of the Bone and Joint Institute is being watched closely across town. St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center‘s Connecticut Joint Replacement Institute recently stepped up marketing of the 9-year-old institution, and it, too, says its competition is in New York and Boston. “Competition in health care is good,” Steve Schutzer, CJRI’s medical director, said. “This is not about buildings, it’s about programs and networks.” Schutzer said CJRI has served 27,000 patients since opening in August, 2007, 3,400 so far this year. St. Francis also has special focuses on sports medicine and spinal care.

Hartford Hospital’s Flaks says both hospitals can co-exist and serve the community.

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