13 months after groundbreaking, new facility set to open doors
Tuesday morning, DeGraff Memorial Hospital and Kaleida Health staff, along with local elected officials and more, helped cut the ribbon to the new $7.8 million emergency department.
Just 13 months ago, the ground was broken to begin construction of the new facility, which will open to the public Thursday.
The project is a focal point of "DeGraff 2020," which is Kaleida Health's plan for the future state of the facility.
DeGraff and Millard Fillmore Hospital President Darcy Craven said, "Like most community hospitals across the country, DeGraff Memorial Hospital has had to adapt to meet the changing landscape of health care. This new emergency department is the cornerstone of the new DeGraff and will serve as the gateway to Kaleida Health's world-class services for the residents of the Tonawandas."
Craven also cited New York State Sen. Rob Ortt, who secured $300,000 in funding for the project, as well as Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, who secured $250,000 to modernize the inpatient rooms. Craven called the two "supporters of health care and the community."
"In the future, we'll continue to invest in outpatient services that the community needs close to home. Those include our infusion services, wound care, our geriatric primary care clinic, physical and occupational speech therapy, as well as a full complement of imaging and lab services. Over the past year, our goal has really been to tighten the alignment between Millard Fillmore Suburban and DeGraff, in an effort to make sure we're delivering the best care possible to the people of this community, in the most sufficient manner possible," Craven said.
DeGraff Memorial Hospital and Millard Fillmore Hospital President Darcy Craven
The expansion includes 17 treatment bays, including a dedicated bariatric room and an airborne isolation room. It also includes a decontamination area suitable for current and emerging infectious diseases. To further accommodate geriatric patients, DeGraff will use non-glare lighting, slip-proof flooring, increased family space, and signage with oversized lettering.
To help improve the patient experience, the emergency department has relocated from the west side of the hospital campus to the east side - fronting the Twin City Highway and allowing for better access, parking and visibility for patients, families and visitors.
President and CEO of Kaleida Health Jody Lomeo said, "Even when you drive by - you don't even have to get out of your car to have a different feel; to see this investment; to see what it means to this community. It's very important."
Last renovated in 1975, the space has more than doubled from 4,800 square feet to 10,000 square feet.
Lomeo added, in a release, "Over the course of 100 years, this facility has evolved and adapted to meet the needs of the community. Today is another great example. This milestone would not have been possible without the support, talent and dedication of so many people. From our nurses and physicians, to the construction team and everyone in between - we thank everyone who shared our vision and believed in a better day for DeGraff Memorial Hospital."
The Pike Company served as the construction manager for the project, while Wendel Architects & Engineers served the architect.
Craven shared his excitement to see the facility come to fruition. He said, "We're ready. This place looks fantastic. It is incredible, it's modern. It's a game-changer for this hospital and this community. The new emergency room is a critical part of tomorrow's success at DeGraff, and a real glimpse of what the future holds here at DeGraff and in North Tonawanda."
Josh Lynch, D.O., FACEP, director of emergency medicine at DeGraff Memorial Hospital, said, "What we are witnessing today is the result of some amazing teamwork, lots of steel and cable, and about 104 years of anticipation. Through growing partnerships and as the gateway to Kaleida Health, DeGraff is now poised to deliver the best possible experience for patients and their families. While the new medical equipment, LED lights, fancy signs outside, and tons of computers ... in the back are impressive, what you can't see are all the process improvements and efficiencies that we've built into the flow of the hospital. ... With all private rooms, including dedicated trauma, bariatric and isolation rooms, DeGraff is now truly ready for the future.
"We will operate as one of the most advanced and efficient emergency departments in Western New York, all while maintaining the neighborhood feel that DeGraff is known for."
Also in attendance was Chelsea Schopf, who told her story about her experience at DeGraff. In February 2017, Schopf said she collapsed on her lunch break from work. Schopf said she had a massive blood clot and coded several times. From hearing that, Schopf learned the team at DeGraff spent four hours on her, doing anything and everything possible to bring her back to life.
"Not once did they give up on me, even in the darkest moments when it was still unknown," Schopf said. "They still fought just as hard to save my life."
Schopf credited Dr. Lee Chalupka, who made a call to get the medication to bust the blood clot, which "saved my life," she said.
Schopf expressed her gratitude for the staff and the care they showed on that dark day.
"The staff here at DeGraff went above and beyond to save my life and they'll forever be a second family to me for all they've done," she said. "To see how far their emergency department has come, it brings me not only joy, but hope. Hope for the next patient that arrives at DeGraff in serious need of medical attention, that the staff here have the tools and workspace that they need to give that patient a second chance at life."
"I know firsthand here that the staff at DeGraff are excellent, as well as some of the most caring and dedicated people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Combined with this new emergency department, I know that there will be many lives saved here," Schopf said.
After Schopf's message, the event formally closed with a ribbon-cutting, and attendees had the chance to tour the new facility.
Tribune Editor David Yarger contributed to this report.
One of the new rooms inside the DeGraff Memorial Hospital emergency department