Albany Med’s Niskayuna project lacks Certificate of Need

Albany Medical Center plans a comprehensive Ambulatory Care Center on Upper Union Street in Niskayuna. As part of the construction, the dental practice of Dr. Kent Molino and Dr. Todd Vaccaro, seen at center, will be moved. (Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer)Albany Medical Center plans a comprehensive Ambulatory Care Center on Upper Union Street in Niskayuna. As part of the construction, the dental practice of Dr. Kent Molino and Dr. Todd Vaccaro, seen at center, will be moved. (Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer)

BY REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — Albany Medical Center’s recently announced Ambulatory Care Center, set to open September 2016 on Upper Union Street, has not yet received a Certificate of Need from the state Department of Health.

In fact, according to the Department of Health, Albany Med has yet to even apply for the certificate, a mandated state review for certain types of medical facilities.

A Sept. 14 press release advertised that the new center would offer “outpatient surgery, endoscopy, urgent care, laboratory services and convenient access to expert specialists in a wide range of disciplines.”

The state requires a CON review process before construction can begin for ambulatory surgery centers, as well as diagnostic and treatment centers.

Diane Dewar, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, said the CON review process ensures that any given region in the state allocates its medical resources efficiently.

“In other words, it curbs the medical arms race between competing entities in order to control resources and health care costs,” Dewar said.

“This review by the DOH is normal,” she added.

Dr. Ferdinand Venditti, vice dean for clinical affairs at Albany Medical Center and head of the Albany Med Faculty Physicians Group, said through a spokesman that he did not believe a CON would be required for the planned Upper Union Street facility.

It’s an issue Schenectady’s residents will likely be eager to straighten out, especially since many remember the reorganization of local health care that occurred after the state’s Berger Commission determined, in 2006, that there were too many emergency room beds available locally.

The commission’s recommendation resulted in the closure of St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady, as well as the takeover of Bellevue Woman’s Center by Ellis Medicine.

It does appear there could be some duplication of services between the Ambulatory Care Facility planned for Upper Union Street and Ellis Medicine’s existing McClellan Street campus. Both offer outpatient surgery, also known as ambulatory surgery, as well as laboratory testing.

A spokesperson for Albany Medical Center said it wouldn’t matter if services were duplicated, and that the Ambulatory Care Center would simply fulfill the demands of existing patients. Ellis Medicine declined to comment for this story.

Regardless of any apparent similarities between the existing Ellis facility and future Albany Medical Center project, Dewar said the Ambulatory Care Center would likely be a positive addition to the community for medical consumers.

“What I’m seeing, for the consumer side, is there’s so much more competition; there are so many more choices,” she said. “The market is going to self-monitor in that Ellis and Albany Medical are going to try to be the best that they can be.”