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"As far as Dean Ebert or anyone else in the Medical School knows relocation plans are still very indefinite. People in the area have little confidence that anything at all is being done to help them. They are ready to pack their bags and leave."
THE CONTROVERSY about the construction of the new Affiliated Hospitals Center by the Harvard Medical School center very much around the two different viewpoints held by the opposing parties: one radical and one liberal. Caught in the middle are the people of the area.
The construction of the Center will provide an additional 232 beds to the hospital complex around the Med School. But more importantly it will join the three hospitals in the area: Peter Bent Brigham, Robert B. Brigham, and Boston Hospital for Women. The union of these hospitals will make it possible to perform complicated and expensive operations such as open heart surgery.
For the people who began the plans for the complex nearly eight years ago the possibilities were very exciting. Harvard would not own the hospitals once they were completed, but would be the teaching agent in them. Further, Harvard agreed to provide the land and the initial construction costs for the complex. After completion the entire project would be sold to the private Affiliated Hospitals Corporation. In the original plans no provision was made for relocation of the families which will be displaced by the project.
Robert H. Ebert became dean of the Med School four years ago. Like his colleagues he was excited by the possibilities for the Center. But also like his colleagues he was confused by the problems of relocation, community relations, community services, and even by the problem of how to determine exactly what a hospital's community is. Despite his concern for the people of the area, however, the central issue in Ebert's mind remains how to build the hospital at the least expense and at the lowest cost. Herein lies his conflict with SDS.
"The first thing that has to be done is to halt construction," said Hayden Duggan, a member of SDS and a researcher for the Committee on Radical Structural Reform. The central issue in his mind is the needs of the community. "You just don't evict 182 families without making adequate provisions for their relocation; you just don't do it," he said.
IN A LETTER to the residents of the area, Hunneman and Company, the real estate agent which is handling the area for Harvard, told residents that they will be contacted soon about "detailed relocation plans which are in the process of being formulated." But as far as Ebert of anyone else in the Medical School knows those plans are still very indefinite. People in the area have little confidence that anything at all is being done to help them. They are ready to pack their bags and leave. If this were a government project instead of a private one the Affiliated Hospital would be required by law to provide relocation funds and help for the families. But Harvard is bound by no such law in this area.
Ebert has set up a special committee of students and Faculty to look into the whole issue, but as far as can be determined there will be no consideration of halting construction completely, and the committee will have only advisory power.
SDS says that the hospitals will do no good for the community; that it will cause the destruction of 182 low-rent family units which are very scare in the Boston area; and that it will make no effort to relocate these people. SDS asks that until the issue is resolved all construction plans halt. Ebert is trying to save the construction plan while somehow accommodating the needs of the people.
But always in his mind remains the thought that building costs are going up at the rate of eight per cent a year and this means, in terms of the new Center, about $7 millions per year. As he puts it, "The more money we have to spend on this the more the drain will be on the treasurer of the University. This money will have to come from somewhere, and I hope to hurt other programs as little as possible."
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