Boston Medical, BU Preparing Gradual, Final Split : New Configuration Will Mean Expanded BMC Public Safety Force

The Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University are preparing to further part ways from their long-time association with one another – though they will still continue to partner on medical and hospital issues.

Bob Biggio, senior vice president of facilities at BMC, said the two institutions are focusing on making a complete split from the association that came about during the Boston City Hospital merger in the 1990s.

This final separation will remove the two organizations’ association – most prominently – in the fields of real estate and public safety.

“BMC and BU are two separate organizations now,” he said. “It’s like Harvard and MGH – they are affiliates but are separate organizations…Our association is an artifact of the merger when Boston City Hospital and University Hospital merged and BMC was created. BU was at the time merged with the real estate assets of BMC. It means we still have to file jointly on any of our projects. Sometimes with health care, the needs of an academic medical center and a University are drastically different.”

That has shown up in the ongoing consolidation of the BMC campus further down to the Massachusetts Avenue side. With more new buildings, renovations, and an upcoming Master Plan amendment to be filed in September, BMC has had more of a need to participate in building processes – often dragging BU along with them needlessly, he said.

“Our needs for a pipeline of project has been significantly greater than BU’s,” he said. “It’s not an expansion, but a consolidation…It doesn’t make to drag that institution in every time we propose a project. It doesn’t change how we work together. It’s just a process change so we have separate filings.”

That will be noticeable in September, he said, when BMC files an amendment to its existing Master Plan – which will trigger another major public process. However, it likely won’t be filed jointly with BU.

One place where neighbors will truly see a difference as a result of the true split will be in the public safety force. Right now, BU runs the security force for BMC, and it overlaps with other properties within the BU envelope around the South End, Back Bay and Fenway.

The split will create a new, larger public safety force, Biggio said, with a new logo, new cars and several new hires.

“Once again, our needs as an urban medical center are significantly different than a University’s needs from a public safety perspective,” he said. “I anticipate we’ll continue to collaborate…We’re going to have our own staff though. It’s also important as BMC grows, it doesn’t make sense for BU to hire staff as we grow…From BU’s perspective, it made better sense to integrate their services with the Charles River campus and in other places around the City.”

He said BMC public safety will have new uniforms and new cruisers, and they expect to have a larger force – for which they are hiring now.

Finally, Biggio said he felt it would be less confusing for the community to figure out what is BMC and what is BU.

“What I saw from the community out of the gate when I came in 2011 was a lot of confusion over what was BMC and what was BU,” he said. “Even though it was one department internally, it wasn’t as simple for the community to figure out who to talk to. I think it will provide better distinction for the community.”

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