It’s been nearly three years since Norwood Hospital was forced to close because of severe flooding — and while ground was broken for a new hospital in November 2021, town officials say it’s not expected to open until 2025. That day can’t come soon enough for leaders in Norwood.
Interim Fire Chief Jim Wright says Norwood continues to feel the pain of not having the hospital in town.
“It is a challenge. Our transport times are significantly longer,” he said. “We would like it if our citizens could get to the hospital in two minutes rather than 15 or 20 minutes, but there is nothing we can do until the hospital is built.”
Norwood has two ambulances in service that transport patients to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, hospitals in Boston and Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton.
But the strain got worse after a major fire shut down Brockton Hospital last month. Wright says Good Samaritan Medical Center is no longer an easy option because patients that would have gone to Brockton are now being rerouted there.
Often, residents rely on other towns to get them to hospitals in mutual-aid ambulances supplied by surrounding towns, which answer the call when Norwood doesn’t have an ambulance free. Norwood’s ambulances are now often stuck out of town after delivering patients to a farther-away hospital.
“Luckily, we have firefighters that respond and do initial care, but many times we have to wait for a mutual-aid ambulance to come in,” Wright said.
Norwood Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco says he doesn’t think anyone ever envisioned that two hospitals in Massachusetts would be closed at the same time.
Heavy rain and flash flooding took out Norwood Hospital in June 2020, permanently shutting down the 215-bed facility. Then, in early February of this year, the 10-alarm fire at Brockton Hospital forced roughly 160 patients to evacuate. Brockton Hospital’s operator estimates the site will reopen in late spring.
Mazzucco is closely following the rebuilding of Norwood Hospital. He says the former building has been fully demolished, and the foundation for the new hospital is nearly complete.
“What you’ll likely see in about two or three months is the building’s steel frame going up,” Mazzucco said. “So, we’re very excited. There have been a lot of these cathartic moments in the process, and the appearance of the steel beams is one of them.”
Mazzucco says he knows five years is a long time to wait for a new medical facility but also recognizes the complexities that are involved. Norwood Hospital is the first hospital to be built from the ground up in Massachusetts in more than 25 years, with new technologies — and new supply chain issues — emerging in the last few decades.
“It’s rare that a hospital is built in this part of the country, so there’s a little bit of a learning curve for everyone involved,” he said.
Mazzucco also gives kudos to the Norwood community at large.
“It’s a big burden on people. You want to go where your doctor is, you want to go where you’re used to.”
Steward Health Care, which owns Norwood Hospital, declined to comment at this time.
Its website says, when completed, the medical facility will have 130 total acute care beds, emergency services including trauma, pediatric and behavioral health capabilities, advance diagnostic imaging services and outpatient services.
The new hospital is also expected to support 4,000 jobs.