by Dan McClelland
Adirondack Health officials, staff members, community leaders and supporters of the capital project that will build the quarters for a new surgical service department at the local hospital in Saranac Lake celebrated the start of the project Wednesday at a groundbreaking on site.
The cool and sunny fall day was perfect for the kick-off event.
The event actually marked the start of the first of two capital campaigns undertaken by Adirondack Health this year. The second is a new Health and Medical Fitness Center in Lake Placid. Adirondack Health officials are currently awaiting final approval from the state Department of Health on the second project, with groundbreaking projected next spring.
The new Surgical Services Department planned for the Saranac Lake hospital includes six new operating rooms, including one hybrid suite, a new ambulatory surgical unit and recovery room and a permanent MRI suite. Construction will begin soon.
The permanent MRI area will house a wide-bore MRI that is 70% quieter and more open, accommodating claustrophobic and larger patients.
The project will also include a dedicated family waiting area, private physician and family consultation area, state-of-the-art central sterile processing and renovations to the materials management department.
The Adirondack Health Foundation is currently raising $12 million in support of both projects which will cost about $36 million. The balance of the funds will be obtained through grants and financing. Hospital officials are hoping $2 million will come from a grant from the North Country Economic Development Council this coming year.
Kevin Brady, vice chairman of the Foundation board began his short address that morning, welcoming the 100 so present and by thanking the hospital staff, the doctors, and the architects and engineers for the remarkable work done on the planto date.
He also applauded the county Industrial Development Agency for its financial assistance and Legislators Barbara Rice and Franklin County Board Chairman Billy Jones for their strong support of it.
He called the project “a huge step forward for the hospital and the community.”
“There has been a smooth history of healing in Saranac Lake” over the years and this project represents a new way to grow that legacy.
Mr. Brady called the scope of the project “very large” at a total cost of $36 million and an overall goal in fundraising of $12 million. Towards that goal, he said, has been over $2 million committed by the board members, the doctors and the staff. “It's a tribute to their caring and support,” as we move to our goal.
Adirondack Health's new CEO, Sylvia Getman, admitted she was overwhelmed by the number of people who have played a role in the development of the project so far. “When talented people come together, amazing things can happen!”
She said the two projects will help put the hospital “at the front lines of where people want to live” in this region.
The operating rooms that will be replaced were constructed in the 1960s, she said, joking that both she and they “need a little help” these days.
She said technology has changed in so many dramatic ways that the old suites are badly outdated.
Mrs. Getman offered robust praise for the work of retired CEO Chandler Ralph who nurtured the project to this point, before her retirement in recent months. “I'll get to put the cherry on top now!”
“This represents a huge celebration for all of us.”
Before finishing she applauded the staff at Adirondack Health “who get up every day and who provide remarkable care.”
Jeannie Cross, who chairs the hospital's board of directors, also applauded Chandler Ralph “for her vision and for conceptualizing that vision” for the facility.
“-And to Sylvia for getting us over the top and final project approval!”
She also recognized her board members, who include Tupper Lake's Eileen Hayes, who was in attendance that morning.
“This project has been in the works for five years, and there's been so many meetings.” As time went on the project became bigger and stronger, she added.
The board chairwoman said because the project involves the construction of a completely new surgical department addition, there will be no interruptions to current surgical procedures in the facility.
When the new surgical department is finished, it will attract new surgeons here and accommodate additional types of surgery, she told the crowd of supporters.
Dr. Michael Hill, the director of surgical services at the hospital, said he finds the project “so incredible” that he is so impressed with the board members and Chandler Ralph for their commitment to it.
“Those old operating room are older than me,” he grinned.
“As we evolve we need to embrace new technologies and that takes up more space.”
The new operating rooms will let surgeons employ state-of-the-art techniques not used there yet.
They are large enough to accommodate the equipment needed for these new techniques, he noted.
“They will allow our current staff to evolve with these new technologies and also help us recruit new surgeons.”
“We have a robust surgical history here, and now we can stand out against much larger facilities and recruit” more successfully, all with an eye “to improving the delivery of care” we can offer, Dr. Hill noted.
“I would also like to thank all the people we work with every day- the ER people, the custodians, the night shift workers- they are incredible!”
“We are the largest private employer in the Adirondacks, and we want to keep people working here!”
Lee Keet, a neighbor at Lake Colby, said both his grandfathers were physicians and his father practiced in Saranac Lake, and he remembers as a youngster when Route 86 by the hospital was the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.
“We're very happy to provide the lead gifts. I love this hospital and I love its staff!”
His wife, Nancy, concluded the presentation by noting that “a vibrant hospital makes for a vibrant community.”
by Dan McClelland