John Falci’s mother-in-law is among the oldest patients at St. James Hospital. Now 99 and a resident at Elderwood, she occasionally has to check in to St. James for a day or two due to dehydration or other issues.
Those stays often included visits with her doctor in the nearby Medical Office Building. Since the new hospital opened in 2020 in Hornell, that meant outdoor trips between the two buildings. During the cold winter months she would have to get bundled up in a large coat and blankets to avoid catching a chill during the short journey.
“They used to have to take her, put some winter blankets on her, put her into the ambulance and then go to the hospital,” said Falci, a longtime North Hornell resident.
That all changed recently with the completion of a new connector building between the hospital and the MOB. The addition officially debuted Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception in a new courtyard that was also part of the donor-funded project.
While the event was held on a warm spring afternoon, the project has helped the Falci family rest a little easier during hospital stays when the weather may not be so nice.
“Now she’s able to go from the hospital to Dr. (Rhonda) Peterson’s office through that tunnel,” said Falci. “It just makes it so much more convenient, especially in the winter. You just had to have that. Even when we went through the building process, I always thought that was going to have to happen real quick."
The enclosed walkway spans the 70 feet between the main hospital building and the MOB, which contains urgent care and primary care services from UR Medicine, as well as Oak Orchard Health. The project also included a 1,600 square foot outdoor patio courtyard accessible from the walkway and the Hospital Cafe. The courtyard, open to staff and the public, features bluestone pavers and decorative planters. It is equipped with seating for up to 60.
Nurses were already taking advantage of the sun-soaked patio during Thursday’s reception, which happened to take place on International Nurses Day.
“All the nurses and staff here protected our community during the pandemic, which is certainly ongoing, but progress never stopped,” said Shawn Hogan, St. James Hospital Board Chairman. “You can see it here. We’re still moving ahead.”
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Hogan noted that the addition made the new medical campus in North Hornell a "complete project." St. James received $55 million from New York state to construct the new hospital, which opened in March 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The connector building and patio were not part of the initial project design and had to be funded through an additional capital campaign.
Pete Wall, the capital campaign committee chairman, said 27 donors raised over $1.2 million for the project, with the Bethesda Foundation and the Blades family providing major donations.
“We were very fortunate to get the funds from the state to build the facility, but we were short on some of the smaller things that didn’t cover,” said Wall. “The community came together and made that happen.”
Interim CEO Wendy Disbrow said the building will improve the patient experience. Disbrow, who succeeded Bryan O’Donovan in March, noted the walkway is also a welcome addition for hospital staff who previously had to brave the elements when traveling between buildings.
“As someone who really experienced only a tiny bit of trying to travel back and forth in the winter time between buildings, I will really love this walkway,” said Disbrow, adding the campaign was a testament to the community’s commitment to the hospital and staff.
This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Hornell's St. James Hospital opens Medical Office Building connector