Legislation that would allow Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, to build a $60-million genetic engineering laboratory without a public hearing, has passed the state House of Representatives and is under consideration by the Senate.
MGH must complete the laboratory by April 1 to be eligible for a $60-million grant from Hoechst-Roussel, a German chemical corporation. But an aide to the bill's sponsor said yesterday that the usual public hearing process can take more than a year.
Hoechst-Roussel offered in June to bankroll the MGH laboratory in return for rights to manufacture and distribute any products resulting from research in the new building.
Despite the April 1 deadline, which Hoechst-Roussel set in June as part of the grant stipulation, a spokesman for the state Public Health Commission (PHC) said Monday MGH has not yet applied for permission to build the laboratory.
If the new bill is passed, hospitals would no longer need permission from the PHC to build research facilities costing more than $150,000. Under present law a public hearing is required on new research facilities if 10 or more taxpayers request it.
"I wouldn't be surprised" if Harvard lobbies for the bill, Pamela Rogers, coordinator for the Mission Hill Planning Commission, which opposes genetic research, said yesterday.
A spokesman for the Community Affairs office said yesterday that Harvard has not actively lobbied for the bill, and Martin Bander, director of public relations for MGH, said Sunday he hadn't heard of the bill.
Sen. Edward L. Burke, chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee, opposes the bill because it takes away a check on unnecessary duplication of research. Jerry Desilets, a legislative assistant for Burke, said Monday. Desilets said that the new bill would force patients and taxpayers to pick up the costs of maintaining new projects when grant money runs out.
Burke has proposed an amendment to the bill which would speed up the processing of the application by forcing the PHC to give first priority to research instead of eliminating the process altogether, Desilets said.
A spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association said yesterday the bill would make state law consistent with a Federal measure passed in July 1980 which allows hospitals to expand without state permission.
MGH plans to locate the new wing on the site of the 90-year-old Resident Physicians House on Blossom St. After area residents signed a petition to grant the house landmark status. MGH advanced a proposal to move it to a different site. The Boston Landmarks Commission is still considering the proposal.
The bill will probably not be passed in this legislative session, a legislative assistant to Rep. Kevin J. Fitzgerald said yesterday.
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