NEW MILFORD -- Hospital officials unveiled plans Tuesday for a new emergency department at New Milford Hospital which will more than double its size and dramatically change the view of the front.
The 11,000-square-foot, two-story emergency room will be built into the hill to the left of the present hospital. It is estimated to cost $10.8 million and more than a third already has been raised through private donations.
The addition is the "first physical manifestation of our commitment to the community," said Deborah Weymouth, executive director of New Milford Hospital and senior vice president of Western Connecticut Health Network, the umbrella organization.
She discussed the project and showed the plans to the press Tuesday in her office at the hospital.
Since the hospital's announcement in March that the Birthing Center will close by year's end, with baby deliveries moved to Danbury Hospital, concerns have been voiced in the town about the future of New Milford Hospital -- concerns Weymouth said she wants to put to rest.
"Our $10.8 million investment in this new ER speaks volumes to our commitment to the community," Weymouth said. "I believe this community deserves top quality medical care."
The new ER will be called the Arnhold Emergency Department, named for the extended Arnhold family, which has members in Litchfield and Fairfield counties. Their initial donation, coupled with other donors' gifts, total $4 million.
Private donations are expected to cover the bulk of the $10.8 million project cost, Weymouth said.
"The generous gifts we have received are an overwhelming endorsement for our vision and work," said Dr. John Murphy, president and CEO of Western Connecticut Health Network.
"This is the latest network investment in our ongoing commitment to provide the highest care for our patients 24 hours a day 365 days a year," Murphy said.
The addition will be on the west side of the present hospital toward Treadwell Avenue. A LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building, it was designed to be environmentally friendly by SLAM Cooperative architects.
Built into the hillside, the addition's green, roof-top garden will provide a park-like view from Treadwell Avenue. The low-profile design will incorporate a stone and copper facade.
While ambulances will continue to access the ER from the rear of the building toward Route 202, general walk-in access to the Emergency Department will be from Elm Street.
"When you have a child bleeding or a husband with a heart attack, you need to clearly know where to go for help," Weymouth said. "That's an issue with our current ER being located in the rear of the building."
The new Emergency Department will have eight private rooms for patients. That is the same patient capacity as now, but the rooms will be much larger.
"Our ER right now is essentially a hallway with the staff center at the front and patients' rooms lined up along the hall. That's an outdated ward-style setting," said Dr. Thomas Koobatian, head of the Emergency Department.
"With the new department, all the patient-staff will be in the middle so they can see and hear all the patients at the same time. That provides better care and improved safety for our patients," he said.
The rooms will not only provide privacy for patients, but also will improve infection control, Koobatian said.
"I'm excited," he said. "I've met with the architects from SLAM. They have unique ideas that are focused on the patient experience."
The new ER will be "senior friendly" with textured surfaces to reduce the impact of possible falls, railings, counter tops at convenient levels and will be brightly lit, he said. At the same time, features geared toward the pediatric patient will be included.
"I'm sad the Birthing Center is closing, but they've done their demographics and realize we're an aging population with more seniors who will need emergency services," she said.
The present 5,200-square-foot Emergency Department was last updated in 2007. The new department, more than double in size, is designed to be contemporary, warm and welcoming and patient-centered, Weymouth said.
The project, begun this summer with ground testing, is expected to be completed in the late spring of 2014, if the land use and building approvals go according to plan. The actual construction should take 18 months, officials said.
The present ER will be open and functioning throughout the new addition's construction. Three houses owned by the hospital, one of which is condemned, along Treadwell Avenue will be demolished for the project, Weymouth said.