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Story By John Murray

It took a decade longer than he wished, but it looks like Mayor Neil O’Leary’s quest for a new hospital in Waterbury is about to come to fruition.

Post-Acute Medical (PAM) Health and Waterbury HEALTH have submitted an application to the state to build a 42-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility on Harper’s Ferry Road in the East End of Waterbury.

The hospital will be located at the intersection of Harper’s Ferry Road and Reidville Drive.

“This project is expected to bring in hundreds of jobs,” O’Leary said. “These are doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals. This is very exciting for the city of Waterbury because it’s going to bring in a significant amount of revenue in the form of tax revenue, both real estate and personal property.”

The $34 million project for a proposed 55,000 square foot hospital meets a need for post-acute medical services in the community.

What does post-acute medical services mean? Following a hospitalization for injury or illness, many patients require continued medical care, either at home or in a specialized facility. Post-acute care refers to a range of medical care services that support the individual’s continued recovery from illness or management of a chronic illness or disability.

According to the PAM website they have 50 long-term acute care and medical rehabilitation hospitals, as well as 18 outpatient physical therapy locations in 13 states. They specialize in wounds, amputations, strokes, joint replacement, spinal cord injury, balance disorders, brain injuries, orthopedic conditions, neurological conditions, cardiopulmonary conditions, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory failure.

This will be the only hospital of its kind in a 35-mile radius. Under the proposal, PAM will be majority partner in the project with Waterbury HEALTH a 30 percent minority partner. Waterbury Health is Waterbury Hospital, Access Rehab Services, Cardiology Associates of Greater Waterbury, The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center, VNA Health at Home, Chase Outpatient Center and the Alliance Medical

The current view from Harper’s Ferry Road.

This will be PAM’s first facility in Connecticut, and second in New England. PAM Health, LLC, is based in Enola, Pennsylvania, and they filed a Certificate of Need Application with the Connecticut Office of Healthcare Strategy on Nov. 21. Once the project receives required approvals, the hospital could open its doors as early as first quarter of 2024.

According to its website PAM offers long-term care to patients who have complex wounds from accidents or burns or who have different complex medical issues that require physician care, daily nursing, physical therapy, and nutritional care. PAM treats patients who are too weak to be discharged home or to be outpatients in an acute rehab facility. Patients have access to a variety of clinical specialties and enjoy therapy with the most modern technology and expertise.

What should you expect from long-term acute care?

When your doctor refers you to a long-term care hospital, a care coordinator will handle your discharge from the hospital and help the transition to a rehab location.

“We would be offering a minimum of three hours of therapy a day,” Kristen Smith of PAM Health told WTNH News. “We’ll provide services to patients with stroke, traumatic brain injury, other neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. There’s not another rehab location within 30 miles of this location, which demonstrates a significantly underserved area for patients in need of this service.”

The new hospital could bring hundreds of jobs to the city of Waterbury.

The site would be easily accessible by I-84. Officials at PAM Health said that was a big factor in selecting Waterbury and that the hospital could benefit people in cities and towns throughout the Naugatuck Valley and beyond.

On a personal note the new hospital has to be deeply satisfying to Neil O’Leary who spent the first year in office trying to close a deal to merge Waterbury Hospital and Saint Mary’s Hospital, and build a new state of the art, $500 million dollar hospital in downtown Waterbury. It was described as the opportunity of a generation, and the project was upended at the 11th hour by the Archbishop of Hartford who rejected a proposed compromise on the thorny issue of abortion.

O’Leary was bitterly disappointed at the time, but is buoyant that ten years later he was able to help bring a third hospital into Waterbury.

“This is a much needed service for greater Waterbury,” O’Leary said, “and we’re thrilled that this project is going to happen.”