Council approves sale of Holyoke Geriatric Authority property

  • The Holyoke Geriatric Authority, pictured here in September 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2020 11:11:17 AM

HOLYOKE — The City Council has unanimously approved the sale of the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority property to Baystate Health, which intends to construct a new behavioral health hospital on the site.

At last Tuesday’s full City Council meeting, all members of the City Council voted in favor of selling the Lower Westfield Road property for $250,000. City officials estimate the city will receive more than $200,000 in annual property taxes in perpetuity from the property, even if it is sold to another entity. The companies also have agreed to a preference for local hiring.

Though the sale of the property sailed through unanimously, the implications of the sale drew tense discussion.

In particular, councilors and several members of the public expressed concerns over Baystate’s plans to partner with for-profit company Kindred Healthcare and, after building the approximately 120-bed new facility, shutter mental health beds at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer.

One of those who spoke during public comment was Spiros Hatiras, the CEO of Holyoke Medical Center, which is moving forward with its own plans to build an 84-bed behavioral health pavilion.

Hatiras noted that Holyoke Medical Center went through a Determination of Need process with the state’s Department of Public Health, and said that Baystate is trying to circumvent that process. He said that if Baystate’s project went forward, Holyoke Medical Center may end its own project, which he said is meant to solve the significant lack of mental health beds in the region that was made worse by Providence Behavioral Health Hospital’s recent closure of beds.

“It makes no sense to build two hospitals next to each other,” Hatiras said. “Both projects won’t happen ... One or the other will happen, depending on which way this goes.”

The city first declared the Geriatric Authority property as surplus and began marketing it in 2017. Baystate Health and the organization U.S. HealthVest made an offer for the property in spring 2019 to build a behavioral health hospital, but that partnership dissolved after U.S. HealthVest ran into controversy over allegations that it operated in Washington state with a profit-driven model that failed vulnerable patients.

Originally built in 1954, the 13-acre site includes two buildings. The Geriatric Authority closed in 2014 amid financial struggles.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.
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