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Ellis Medicine cancels plan for Clifton Park surgical center

Ellis Medicine cancels plan for Clifton Park surgical center

Proposal changed repeatedly over two years; timing is judged to be wrong now
Ellis Medicine cancels plan for Clifton Park surgical center
Ellis Hospital in Schenectady is pictured.
Photographer: Gazette file photo

CLIFTON PARK — Ellis Medicine is abandoning its two-year effort to build an ambulatory surgical center in Clifton Park, saying the timing is no longer right for such a project.

The proposed 62,000-square-foot multi-specialty surgical facility received contingent state approval in December 2017 and final town approval in March 2019. Construction start was pegged at May 1, 2019.

But Ellis confirmed Tuesday that it had notified the state Department of Health it was withdrawing the proposal it first submitted in 2017.

In a written statement issued in response to questions from The Daily Gazette, Ellis said it continues to view Clifton Park and all of southern Saratoga County as a growth market. It also said it would continue to develop plans for expansion at the 11-acre site on Sitterly Road at the Northway, where it already has a major facility, the Medical Center of Clifton Park.

But not for a surgical center.

The statement also gave a glimpse of the rapidly changing market dynamics at play in southern Saratoga County, which was all but bereft of medical facilities a generation ago but now has several urgent care clinics and multi-specialty medical facilities measuring in the thousands or tens of thousands of square feet. The Medical Center of Clifton Park is 38,000 square feet, for example.

“Ellis Medicine has worked closely with area physicians in an effort to develop a financially viable business plan for a multi-specialty ambulatory surgery center on property we own adjacent to our Medical Center of Clifton Park,” the statement said.

“This plan has required continuous adjustments during that time to reflect the many ongoing changes in the national healthcare landscape and in our regional market. After much evaluation and discussion, we have determined that the timing is not right for this ASC project, and Ellis will instead shift our focus and begin exploring an expansion of other healthcare services on our Clifton Park campus that will better meet the community’s needs and better utilize Ellis’ resources.”

Ellis’ proposal started off in September 2017 as a 40,000-square-foot multi-specialty surgical center that would cost an estimated $13.64 million to build and host 1,500 to 1,600 procedures a year in its first three years of operation.

By October 2018, Ellis had boosted the size to 62,000 square feet and the price tag to $21.4 million.  It was to be built by a Minneapolis firm specializing in development of structures for healthcare providers. The Clifton Park Industrial Development Agency pledged an $11.8 million package of tax breaks for the project, which was expected to create 35 full-time jobs and 160 construction jobs.

Ellis indicated in Tuesday’s statement that withdrawal of its surgical center plan is not the end of its ambitions in town: 

“This is not a decision by Ellis to stop investing in our community. It was a determination that an ambulatory surgery center in Clifton Park is not the best use of Ellis’ resources at this time.”

Suburbs such as Clifton Park and Halfmoon are attractive sites for outpatient facilities run by urban hospitals because their residents are, on average, wealthier and more likely to carry health insurance.

By contrast, Ellis Medicine’s headquarters and namesake, Ellis Hospital, serves in part as a safety-net type facility for Schenectady's uninsured and under-insured population. Some of the services it provides in the city lose money or provide minimal profit.

When Albany Medical Center sought to place an outpatient surgical center in the wealthy suburb of Niskayuna, just 1.5 miles from Ellis Hospital and 0.9 miles from Ellis’ outpatient campus, Ellis protested (ultimately in van) to state regulators that Albany Med was trying to poach one of Ellis’ most lucrative lines of care.

Ellis officials acknowledged that they were simultaneously trying to accomplish just that themselves by building a new revenue stream in the Clifton Park-Halfmoon area.

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