By SCOTT JACKSON
A local group led by the former chief of surgery at the now-closed Quincy Medical Center hopes to open a new acute-care hospital within the city.
Steward Health Care, a for-profit company, closed most of the hospital on Whitwell Street in 2014. The company kept the emergency room on site open as a satellite facility of Carney Hospital through late 2020. The closure made Quincy the largest city in Massachusetts without a hospital.
Dr. Tony Dragone, who recently turned 80, spent decades working at the hospital as surgeon, including as its chief of surgery from 1991 to 2000. In a recent interview, Dragone recalled being there Quincy Medical Center closed in 2014 and saying to himself, “this can’t be forever.”
In the interview, Dragone said he is now the head of a 14-person commission, dubbed the New Quincy Medical Center Commission, that has set out to construct a new hospital in Quincy. Dragone said he is undertaking the endeavor as a way to give back.
“I’m not looking to have a legacy here. I’m just looking to give something back that the hospital gave to me,” he said. “They gave me a life of fullness, happiness, prosperity and I am very gifted to have that in my life, really.”
The former hospital was a like family for the employees who worked there, he explained.
“I love the hospital. Quincy Medical Center itself is a unique place – it was a unique place. It is the alter ego, the other family, for many, many people who worked there,” Dragone said.
“It was like living with your friends and your mother and your father…We would just all sit down and talk. We were all friends…A friendship developed over the years, and I liked that. I liked that a lot.”
The group has had discussions with various stakeholders about opening a new hospital, Dragone said, including the state’s Department of Public Health. Before completing a determination of need analysis, an initial step in the permitting process, Dragone said the DPH asked the group to find a potential site where the hospital would be built.
“We’ve spoken to the Department of Public Health and discussed a determination of need. They have said to us, ‘Doctors, get the land and then come back and we will work out everything together,” he said.
“The DPH has been very comfortable with us. They’ve been very polite. We’ve had Zoom meetings with them,” Dragone added. “They said listen, we can’t do anything with the DON right now. You need l-a-n-d – land – purchased. Where’s it going to go?”
The group also has been promised up to $150 million to finance the project, Dragone added.
“We’ve got financing promised to us. The biggest issue right now, I will repeat, is the l-a-n-d,” he said. “That’s what is holding us back right now.”
The commission sought assistance from the public last month, asking residents for help finding a five-acre site in Quincy where a hospital could be built.
Dragone said the commission has identified two potential sites – one near Crown Colony and the other near Marina Bay – that fit the criteria. The Fore River Shipyard has also been suggested as a possible location. The commission plans to meet in the near future to begin reviewing those possibilities, Dragone said.
While the location of the potential new hospital is yet to be determined, Dragone already can already picture what it would look like.
“I have the building already in mind. I know exactly what I want. It’s going to be an ER, pediatrics to geriatrics,” he said, adding that the hospital would also have a maternity ward, like Quincy Medical Center once did.
“I want full-fledged acute-care hospital. I want an outpatient department also that can do many outpatient surgeries as they are today. I want an acute-care hospital, five or six floors. I’m looking for a 125-bed buildout.”
Dragone added that he would like to dedicate the lobby of the new hospital to his late wife, Carla.
The construction of the new building could take approximately a year and a half, he said, based on conversation he has had with people familiar with such projects.
The new hospital, a non-profit, would be overseen by a board of managers comprised of members of the Quincy community and Dr. Roberto Feliz would serve as the hospital’s CEO, Dragone said.
“There would be a director of the hospital – a CEO. This young man wants to be the CEO. He’s had a lot of experience with it. He’s board-certified in anesthesia, pain control, et cetera, and he has a business degree also,” Dragone said of Feliz.
“I have said to him, Roberto, I want you to be CEO. I have told him I would be there, I want a little small office. I will not get paid anything. I do want to teach. That’s what I want to do.
“I’m not getting paid. I don’t need it – I’ve gotten enough money over the years.”