Facility Serves Thousands From NY Each Year
It was about seven years ago when a foundation was formed to begin the effort of constructing a new Emergency Room at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) in Bennington. It became known as the VISION 2020 project.
This new ER is something that is urgently needed according to Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVMC’s operator) CEO Tom Dee. At the ground breaking ceremony on Friday, August 27, he described the current emergency facilities as “behind the times physically” but also emphasized the staff has “never let it compromise the care that we give.”
In December of last year, the Green Mountain Care Board approved the project. The modernization plan will double the emergency department, reconfigure the main entrance to SVMC, and includes parking and access road improvements. The new facility will be called the Kendall Emergency Department, after Don and Nancy Kendall, the owners of Mack Moulding, who pledged $5 million to VISION 2020. The price tag for the modernization is estimated at $28 million.
Other improvements will feature all glass enclosed private rooms, with touchless door opening and negative pressure environments. Negative press rooms prevent the spread of infectious contaminants and maintain sterility in restrictive places.
Another major improvement according to Mr. Dee will be the expansion of the Crisis Center to treat mental health issues.
According to Dr. Adam Cohen, the Medical Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine, working on the project through the COVID-19 pandemic, has given them great insight into some of the design challenges. As Medical Director he also took time at the podium to express his and the hospital’s gratitude toward all the staff that put their personal health and even their lives on the line to help their community during this pandemic.
Joanne Mather Conroy is CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock, as western New Hampshire based medical facility, with whom SVMC is affiliated in many ways. She told those gathered there Friday morning, the new facility will have tele-conferencing capabilities in every room. This will allow SVMC personnel to talk with colleges at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and possibly other medical institutions when consultations are need. She told The Eastwick Press,“the pandemic has brought tele-medicine and tele-conferencing to the forefront,” particularly for the elderly, those who may have transportation issues or for any other reason that a trip to the hospital for treatment may not be the best option. She feels even after the pandemic has past, tele-medicine is here to stay.
SVMC not only services Vermont, it is a major player in the health care field for many communities in eastern Rensselaer and southern Washington County. CEO Dee said their ER treats about 25,000 patients year, with about 25% or well over 6,000 residents coming from New York.
It is estimated that demolition and eventual construction on the new building will begin in October or November of this year with completion estimated at 30 months from that date.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were representatives of Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch.