AMSTERDAM - A privately funded $1 million project broke ground off of Route 30 in the town last week, paving the way for a high-tech ambulatory surgery center that will add about 10 new full-time highly skilled jobs to the region and keep eye surgery patients local.
Dr. David Kwiat said the new 5,000-square-foot facility - with about 3,200 square-feet of space for surgical procedures - should open in the first quarter of 2013.
"This project is for my patients. The combination of enhanced surgical experience, better surgical outcomes and reduced cost makes this the new model for eyecare," Kwiat said. "This is a win for the patients and Montgomery County and neighboring counties."
Dr. David Kwiat, center, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mohawk Valley Eye Surgery Center in the town of Amsterdam on Monday.
Standing from left to right are: Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam; Amsterdam town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza; Amy and Brayden Kwiat, Kwiat’s wife and son; U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam; and Chamber of Commerce interim President Mark Kilmer. (Photo by Amanda May Metzger)
Kwiat estimated the center will accommodate 2,000 patient surgeries in the first two years.
Called the Mohawk Valley Eye Surgery Center, the facility will be the first ophthalmic and ambulatory surgery center in Montgomery County, and it will operate in addition to Kwiat's current offices in the town.
Now, Kwiat and his patients have to travel 35 minutes to a center in Latham where he can perform more complex surgeries, though there are some procedures, such as LASIK eye surgery, that can be done at his current facility.
At the new surgical center, treatments will be available for cataracts and glaucoma. Kwiat said he will also be able to perform eyelid surgery and retinal laser surgery and a full range of eye procedures.
Kwiat has been operating in Amsterdam for five years and opened his Kwiat Eye and Laser Surgery offices at 100 Holland Circle Drive, off of Route 30 in the town, about 1 1/2 years ago.
He employs 15 people.
"I have an office for eye exams and minor procedures," Kwiat said, adding that the new center, which is being constructed next door to his current offices, will be a "full medical office" with surgical capabilities.
"My patients had to travel to a center 35 miles away. Now they will not need to travel outside this area," keeping jobs and patients in Montgomery County, Kwiat said.
"I cannot stress enough the elevation of standards this center will bring," Kwiat said. "There will be technology here that does not exist anywhere else in the Capital Region. Eye technology changes very quickly, and a center like this will allow us to keep pace with that changing landscape."
The center has wider implications as well, since the reimbursement rate for procedures done at ambulatory centers is less than at hospitals.
That means a savings for state and federal healthcare programs as well as private insurance, Kwiat said.
"When a person has cataract replacement surgery done at an ambulatory surgery center as opposed to a hospital, the reimbursement rate is significantly less," said Kwiat's Chief of Operations Ernie Belanger. "The last figures I have show the savings is approximately 45 percent."
But the significance isn't only in the money-saving benefits, Belanger said. Ambulatory surgery centers that have specializations can also keep in step with the latest technology.
"What's happening is as technology moves forward and medical expenses rise, we're trying to keep things in specialized surgical units when it's possible. Surgeries that can be done as outpatient surgeries, [the industry] is gravitating toward doing it in specialized ambulatory surgery centers and New York is kind of lagging behind on that," he said.
"A hospital has to cater to all those different surgical disciplines, so it's very difficult to specialize in any one of them," Belanger said.
"This really is a positive for this area. We are medically underserved. There is a need for this type of surgery center here. It will bring patients in from around the area," he said. "If you look at the growth here in just the past year, this area is starting to revitalize. Folks in Montgomery County should be proud because it's saying our county is pulling itself up from the bootstraps and moving forward.
Belanger said crews hope to complete the building's skeleton and enclose it by the winter so that interior work can proceed.
"Economically it's a world class center in the community. It's also something the chamber of commerce and the community leaders can help to bring in additional industry because it's building a stronger medical infrastructure in the community," Belanger said. "Folks moving business and retailers in - they look at those kings of things when they move into a community. This will help private enterprise by community leaders bringing in industry to the counties."
Kwiat was joined by U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, Amsterdam town Supervisor Thomas DiMezza and Chamber of Commerce interim President Mark Kilmer at a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.
"Any time you break ground, there is a spirit of optimism. It's a sign of growth and transition for the area. Building confidence in our economy is perhaps one of the greatest things we can do right now," Tonko said. "It's about taking advantage of technology and streamlining activity that allows for us to respond to what I think are the most important things in healthcare: affordability and accessibility. We can take pride and satisfaction in knowing there is belief in this area."
Amedore said, "this is exactly what the residents of this region need."
"The advancement of technology, the care and the ability to bring forth advancements of the 21st century with the medical devices you'll be using is an absolute must," he said.
Kwiat said the town and state have been excellent in working with him during planning over the past 2 1/2 years.
"This is great for our economy. Here we're going to be bringing people from all over the area to a world-class eye center," DiMezza said. "I think that's going to be a tremendous boost to our economy. We have the facilities on Route 30 to accommodate everyone. It's a great place to relocate. We appreciate everyone bringing their business here."