BMH opens new Emergency Department

Gov. Peter Shumlin and Rep. Peter Welch cut the ribbon on Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's new Emergency Department while BMH President and CEO Steve Gordon looks on. (Howard Weiss-Tisman/Reformer)

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Tuesday August 6, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Brattleboro Memorial Hospital opened its new Emergency Department Monday, marking the end of Phase One of the hospital's $7.5 million expansion and renovation.

The new Emergency Department entrance and service area will be open to the public Wednesday.

During Phase Two, which is projected to be completed in spring 2014, the hospital will update and modernize all of the internal communications systems.

"This celebration is really all about the emergency room, the entrance, the new look, the new access," Gov. Peter Shumlin said. "This is a huge development and really important to the future and the strength of this hospital."

Shumlin was born at BMH and he said the expansion and renovation was important to keep the region modernized in the face of a changing health care system.

"You can judge a community by the health of its hospital," Shumlin said. "We're proud of this celebration today and to all the hard work of the community members who stepped up to the plate and made this all possible."

The existing Emergency Department was built in 1982 to meet the needs of about 6,000 annual visits. The BMH Emergency Department now admits about 14,000 patients every year and the renovation was done to modernize the hospital and give the staff more room and equipment to work with.

The entire 8,500-square-foot department was rebuilt and about 2,500 square feet were added.

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When the expansion is complete the number of Emergency Department beds will increase from seven to 12 and the rooms will be expanded from 125 square feet to 140 square feet. Two new rapid treatment rooms will allow staff to work on minor illnesses and injuries and two safe rooms will allow doctors a room to place volatile patients until they can be treated.

"This is a great moment for Brattleboro," said Shumlin. "It's a great moment for Windham County and its a great opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that we keep this hospital strong, that we continue to find ways to deliver quality care while spending less."

Art Magnaghi, former president of the BMH Board of Directors, also spoke Monday and he recognized the death of Sen. Robert Gannett, who was a strong supporter of BMH.

Magnaghi was board president in 1980 when BMH renovated the emergency department for the first time. The hospital spent about $1.5 million then and he said the community was able to see the need once again to modernize the region's health care center.

"Everyone here today in our community owes a big thank you for the foresight and leadership position taken in this major project by the hospital's board of directors and the hospital's administration."

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined Shumlin in recognizing the work that went into opening the new Emergency Department.

Welch said some lawmakers in Washington are continuing to fight against the federal health care changes, while towns like Brattleboro see the need to prepare for a changing health care system.

"Where the leadership is now coming is from you, it's right here, where you do believe in the future. Health care is tough. It's in a state of transition and how we get from where we are to where we need to be is a work in progress that requires effort and sacrifice and skill and compromise every single day," said Welch. "When I see what you're doing, right here. We have this local community effort, where we now have a state of the art emergency room facility that's going to give confidence to this community, that when care is needed, care will be given."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.