Healthy Hospitals

From multimillion-dollar building projects and high-tech robotic surgery equipment to new (and patient-friendly) waiting rooms: our latest update takes the pulse of the Valley’s hospitals.

Healthy Hospitals


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From Westchester to Albany, the building boom is on — at least as far as area hospitals are concerned. But major new wings and high-tech upgrades are just the beginning. Innovative procedures, cutting-edge technology, world-class doctors — even patient perks like flat-screen TVs and farm-fresh meals prepared by CIA-trained chefs — are popping up all over the Valley. Read on for the latest hospital happenings.


By Rita Ross

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Showing off the da Vinci robotic surgery system at St. Luke’s Cornwall hospital in Orange County (from left): Doctors Conrado Tojino, Mark Chang, and Stephen Cestari


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The economy may have slowed down significantly, but you wouldn’t know it from the construction work going on around the clock at the hospitals in our region: A new wound healing center at Warwick’s St. Anthony Hospital, a 45,000-square-foot pavilion — and a 129-room hotel — at Albany Medical Center, and plans for a brand new hospital to be built in Orange County by the year 2011. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our hospitals aren’t facing serious challenges.


“While every hospital strives to build and continue to provide the latest innovative and high-quality services, the struggle to obtain financing to do that continues to be incredibly difficult,” says Angela Skretta, the vice president of the Newburgh-based Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association. Skretta also points to insurance issues — especially the sky-high malpractice rates in New York State — as reasons why it is difficult to attract top-notch doctors. “Physicians receive as little as 62 cents on the dollar for every dollar that physicians receive just across the border in Connecticut and New Jersey. It has to do with an amazing imbalance in the market, where the health insurance companies have an incredible stronghold on what has happened in New York State in the past 12 years. We’re partnering with businesses to help reinstate some balance.” On the positive side: two years ago, 28 hospitals in seven Hudson Valley counties signed a mutual aid agreement, which was the first of its kind in the state. “If a disaster occurs, all the hospitals have a basic agreement to help each other,” explains Skretta. “Our hospitals are doing everything they can to be able to offer the best services, for the majority of health situations, right in patients’ own backyards.”



Patient care can now be electronically tracked, from arrival to discharge, thanks to the new wireless medical-record system recently installed at Northern Dutchess Hospital’s Emergency Center. Northern Dutchess was the first Dutchess County hospital to install the program (Vassar Brother has it now, too), which also reduces patient waiting time and boosts accuracy of record-keeping and the dispensing of medication.


The hospital’s Neugarten Family Birth Center, which was the first hospital-based birthing center in the state when it opened in 1985, has launched a Nursery Hospitalist program. (A hospitalist is a physician who is employed only by a hospital and has no other practices. Proponents believe hospitalists fill a growing gap in the continuum of care.) Specialist providers perform routine newborn exams, assist with high-risk deliveries, and offer specialized newborn care as needed; local pediatricians and neonatologists remain available for consultation and care after the infant is discharged from the hospital. Other hospital advancements include expanded hours at the hospital’s Arthritis Center; installation of a new fixed-unit MRI with breast MRI services; and the designation of the hospital by the New York State Department of Health as a stroke center.


Northern Dutchess received five-star ratings in two categories from HealthGrades — it was ranked best in the region in the total joint replacement category, and its maternity care was judged among the top 10 percent in the nation.



Saint Francis Hospital and Health Care Centers (with facilities located in Poughkeepsie and Beacon) is in the homestretch of a $15 million capital campaign. One of the projects slated for funding is a $9.4 million expansion and renovation of the Emergency and Trauma Services Center.


In December, the hospital’s Charles and Mabel E. Conklin Diagnostic Catheterization Laboratory opened; in September, the Panichi Family Center for Communications and Learning, a special needs pre-school for children ages three to five, was launched in Beacon. The center also houses a satellite office of the hospital’s Center for Communication Disorders, to treat patients of all ages who have hearing, speaking, or swallowing difficulties. Last year, Saint Francis also opened a new Medical Arts Pavilion, with expanded space for physician offices and other health-care services.



Vassar Brothers Medical Center now utilizes a state-of-the-art, 64-slice CT scanner, which allows 3-D whole-body imaging to be done in seconds and provides vital information for diagnosing ailments such as cardiovascular disease, chest pain, and stroke.


The hospital has also added a new da Vinci robotic surgical system. Primarily used to treat prostate cancer and perform gynecological procedures such as hysterectomies, the high-tech device makes it simpler and more effective than ever for surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery.


Vassar Brothers has recently welcomed several experts to its medical team, including the nation’s first residency-trained laparoscopic general surgeon; a new director of breast cancer services; and the addition of Women’s Cancer Care Associates, a group of board-certified physicians and nurse practitioners, to the hospital’s Dyson Center for Cancer Care.


Recent hospital awards include recognition by the Leapfrog Group as a Top 50 Acute Care Hospital for Quality and Patient Safety; the 2008 HealthGrades Cardiac Surgery and Cardiac Care Excellence Awards; and a ranking among the top 10 percent in the nation for both cardiac surgery and cardiac care by HealthGrades. Vassar Brothers is one of only 11 U.S. hospitals recognized by the American Heart Association in all three of its “Get With the Guidelines” health-education categories.




The Bobbie Glinton Health Center, a new medical office building, marks a major milestone for Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis. The 27,000-square-foot medical complex, which is expected to be completed in about a year, will include a full-service imaging center as well as a specialized women’s imaging center. An elevated, all-weather walkway over East Main Street will provide direct access from physicians’ offices to the heart of the hospital.



The biggest news at Orange Regional Medical Center revolves around plans to build a state-of-the art, 374-bed hospital at a new site in the Town of Wallkill. When completed in 2011, the $350 million project will be the first new hospital built in the state in more than 20 years. This year, Orange Regional also began offering emergency angioplasty, becoming the first Orange County hospital to provide this advanced cardiac procedure. The hospital is certainly on the right track: last year, it received the Thomson 100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement Leaders Award.



In December, St. Anthony Community Hospital opened a new Wound Healing Center to treat a variety of conditions including bedsores, burns, leg and foot ulcers, and diabetic and accident-related wounds. Other new offerings at St. Anthony include the recently inaugurated “Visiting Neighbors” senior day-care program at the Warwick hospital’s Mount Alverno Center adult home and assisted living site. For the third consecutive year, St. Anthony was selected to receive the Thomson 100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement Leaders Award — one of only four hospitals nationwide to receive the distinction three times in a row.



There’s been plenty of activity on the two campuses of St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital. In the summer of 2007, St. Luke’s became the first hospital between Westchester and Albany to offer state-of-the-art da Vinci robotic technology for gynecological and prostate surgery. As part of a $100 million renovation plan which was introduced four years ago, the refurbished Center for Joint Replacement on the Newburgh campus now allows patients to stay in hotel-like rooms with amenities like flat-screen TVs and terrific Hudson River or mountain views. Similar renovations, which are scheduled to be completed this spring, will increase the number of telemetry beds, which will enhance the hospital’s cardiac maintenance capabilities. On the Cornwall campus, ground-breaking for an extensive new Cancer Treatment Center was set into motion for this spring.




Late last year, Ulster County’s two hospitals, Benedictine Hospital and Kingston Hospital, both located in Kingston, came together (along with Margaretville Memorial Hospital in Delaware County) to form HealthAlliance Planning, Inc. This new corporation functions as the parent company of both hospitals, which will continue as separate facilities but will join together to provide certain aspects of health-care delivery to the community. By early this year, the hospitals had already combined their finance and patient accounting departments; a newly formed Call Center allows patients from all three hospitals to dial one phone number to reach staff members. This spring, construction is expected to begin on the Foxhall Ambulatory Surgery Center, which will be located on the Kingston Hospital campus and will provide two additional operating rooms.




Big plans are underway as Albany Medical Center unveils a proposed $360 million building expansion. Pending state approval, the new complex will rank as the largest hospital expansion project in the history of northeast New York. The six-story inpatient complex would offer expanded adult and neonatal intensive care units, add 20 operating-room suites, more surgical prep and recovery areas, and boost the hospital’s bed capacity from 631 to 747. Construction could start next year and wrap up by 2012.

Last May, the medical center opened a $15 million, 45,000-square-foot Physicians Pavilion. It houses the broadest range of medical and surgical specialists in the northeastern corner of the state — and there’s even free valet parking.


Last year also marked the opening of the $20 million Hilton Garden Inn at Albany Medical Center. The 129-room hotel, with restaurants, shops, a spa, and other amenities, is adjacent to the hospital.



Albany Memorial Hospital is in the midst of a $14 million expansion and renovation. The plans include a new emergency department which, when completed, will comfortably accommodate 40,000 visitors a year. Other highlights of the building project include a new lobby and central registration area, along with improved ambulance access and smoother patient flow. Completion is expected by the end of this year.



At St. Peter’s Hospital, construction of a $258 million, six-story Patient Care Pavilion starts this spring. Due to be completed in 2011, the 600,000-square-foot facility will add private rooms and 22 state-of-the-art surgical suites. The hospital’s newest high-tech equipment includes computer-assisted robotic surgery, as well as the Novalis Shaped Beam surgical system that delivers high-dose radiation. (It’s especially effective for pinpoint-precise treatments for the brain, head, spine, and lungs, as well as other areas of the body.)


St. Peter’s is racking up distinctions. In 2005, it was named a Magnet Hospital — the nation’s highest honor for nursing — by the American Nurses Association (only five percent of hospitals nationwide receive this award). Its latest honor, awarded earlier this year, comes from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which bestowed a Blue Distinction Award on the hospital’s Cancer Care Center (the largest and most comprehensive in the Capital Region) for the Treatment of Complex and Rare Cancers.




Patients who need neurological care or stroke treatment can now get it 24/7 with the recent opening of Columbia Memorial Hospital’s round-the-clock program, staffed by three neurologists who are regional experts in epilepsy, pediatric neurology, and stroke care. The Hudson-based hospital has also made it simpler and safer to dispense medication by introducing the latest bar-code technology in its pharmacy.
State-of-the-art equipment is the centerpiece of the hospital’s new Medical Imaging Center, which provides a variety of services including digital mammography, ultrasonography, and MRIs. Last year, the hospital also introduced a nonsurgical, permanent birth-control technique known as the Essure procedure; it’s less invasive and eliminates the need for a woman to undergo tubal ligation.


Columbia Memorial’s Intensive Care Unit is being enlarged and renovated. Also on the drawing board: renovation of the sixth-floor patient-care area; expansion of the psychiatric unit; and a makeover of the cafeteria, which (thanks to a partnership with the Columbia County Real Food Network) will soon bring fresh regional fruits and veggies to patients and staff.




Just as flight simulators are basic training tools in aircraft flight schools, the medical world now uses a similar concept in computer-activated training. At Seton Health/St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, a device known as the Noelle Birthing Simulator allows the hospital’s birthing team to practice real-life situations that can occur during delivery and help ensure the birth goes safely and smoothly.


This summer, Seton Health/St. Mary’s will be the new home to the only multi-patient hyperbaric oxygen facility in the Capital Region. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat chronic wounds. While standard therapy can require a patient to lie in a pressurized chamber for hours, this new method offers a state-of-the-art “trailer” in which up to 10 patients can sit comfortably, chat — even watch a movie on a big-screen TV. The hospital was also recently named one of three national winners in a patient-safety program by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.



Samaritan Hospital’s Cancer Treatment Center, the first and only comprehensive center in Rensselaer County, now offers breakthrough technologies such as Image Guided Radiation Therapy (precise within millimeters, this advanced technology allows radiation oncologists to provide extremely accurate, highly customized radiation treatments with less exposure to normal tissue); High Dose Rate brachytherapy for gynecologic cancers and skin cancers; and Mammosite brachytherapy for breast malignancies.




This past year has seen the opening of the Active International Cardiovascular Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern. The lower Hudson Valley’s newest comprehensive cardiac surgery center, it offers both emergency and elective angioplasty and open-heart surgery. Since the Institute opened, doctors have performed more than 300 open-heart procedures, 800 angioplasties, and 2,300 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations there. In addition, the hospital recently opened a newly renovated and relocated Electrophysiology Lab, where doctors implant and maintain pacemakers, implantable cardiac defibrillators, and biventricular assist devices.


Good Samaritan also offers 64-slice CT scanning to enable faster, more accurate diagnoses of conditions such as arterial blockages and pulmonary embolisms.

The hospital’s Emergency Medicine Department is in the process of a full-scale expansion. New features will include a Rapid Admit Unit, in which patients awaiting hospital admission can remain comfortable until their regular room is ready. The hospital also recently opened a 10-bed Surgical Intensive Care Unit to better treat critical patients following heart surgery and other major procedures; and has embarked on a renovation and modernization of its Critical Care Unit.



State-of-the-art medical equipment is vital for top-notch medical care. Nyack Hospital recently purchased a variety of high-tech devices, including laparoscopic equipment for minimally invasive surgery, and digital mammography units to help detect breast cancer. The hospital’s mammography systems are also equipped with computer aided detection (CAD) software to improve tumor detection and review of test results.


The hospital has partnered with Hudson Valley Radiology Associates to open a PET/CT Center. Located in the Union State Bank Cancer Center, the PET/CT technology allows physicians to diagnose and treat cancer earlier and more precisely by combining both anatomic structure and metabolic function in a single image.


Nyack has also added Endoscopic Ultrasound equipment, which combines endoscopy and ultrasound in order to obtain detailed information about the body’s digestive tract and surrounding tissue.


Renovations to the hospital’s oncology inpatient unit include new furniture and flooring treatments in all patient areas, refurbishment of the nurses’ station, and construction of three deluxe patient rooms and a seven-chair infusion center.


The hospital’s Home Care Department was recently recognized by the New York State Department of Health as a member of Home Care Elite, placing it in the top 25 percent of home health agencies nationally.




The Camarda Care Center, a new 113,000-square-foot facility, is scheduled to open in June adjacent to Carmel’s Putnam Hospital Center. The five-story building will house 70 private patient rooms as well as a full-service cancer center. The latter will feature a linear accelerator (which is used in radiation therapy) and other up-to-the-minute technology. The hospital’s Diabetes Self-Management program recently received an award for quality education by the American Diabetes Association.




A $100-million-plus expansion is underway at Hudson Valley Hospital Center. Plans include 23,000 square feet of renovations, plus an additional 110,000 square feet of new space. The first phase, expected to be completed this spring, features a two-story addition to the Emergency Department. Construction has also begun on a new Surgery Center which will have two state-of-the-art operating rooms, and a post-surgical recovery suite with windows.


Construction also gets underway this spring on a four-story patient tower, which will provide 33 emergency treatment rooms and 84 private patient rooms (as well as a 450-space parking garage). The overall project is expected to wrap up by 2010.

Another new hospital feature is an off-site Wellness Club. Located in Cortlandt Town Center in Mohegan Lake, this medical fitness facility functions like a health club. In addition, it offers specialty healthy-lifestyle programs, such as three-month sessions for healthy weight loss (and similar four-week classes for teens), plus stop-smoking and stress management options.


Hudson Valley Hospital Center’s newest procedures include a minimally invasive surgical technique known as the “v-sling.” This outpatient procedure helps women of all ages who suffer from involuntary urine leakage, also known as stress incontinence.

Hospital food with flair is the key to the new “At Your Service” dining plan. Based on the concept of hotel room service, the hospital allows most patients to order meals or snacks whenever they’re hungry. Menus and meals are created by a team of three CIA-trained chefs.



A special new arrival is due this summer at Lawrence Hospital Center: an advanced Maternity Center. The 15,000-square-foot wing will house 23 private rooms equipped with showers and flat-screen TVs; a nursery featuring the latest in high-tech infant-monitoring equipment; a neonatal intensive care unit; and two new labor rooms.

The Bronxville hospital also redesigned and expanded its Emergency Department. The new wing features six state-of-the-art Prompt Care treatment rooms (where minor injuries are handled), and a new five-bed admissions unit, (where patients awaiting a room in the main hospital can rest in comfort). Lawrence also now offers a Palliative Care program, a specialized service for patients and families dealing with debilitating or life-threatening illnesses.


Other hospital additions include a Women’s Imaging Center, which offers the latest technology (such as ultrasound and digital mammography with CAD) as well as a restful, private area for patients awaiting tests and treatment.


A new Center for Advanced Surgery provides the latest in laparoscopic procedures; breast, colorectal, endocrine and obesity surgery; surgical oncology; and urgent general surgical care. Starting this summer, physical and occupational therapy services, and the lymphedema treatment center, will all get a new home at Lawrence Hospital’s satellite center in Eastchester.



Renovations are now under way at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla to transform its 11,000-square-foot High-Risk Labor and Delivery Center. The medical center, which includes University Hospital and the 114-bed Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, is also expanding its Emergency Department by increasing space from 22 to 33 beds. Westchester Medical Center’s biggest long-term plans involve a complete transformation of all patient-care units. Slated to begin shortly, the massive, $1 billion, multi-year renovation will include remodeled patient rooms and a new lobby – as well as eventual replacement of virtually every building on Westchester Medical Center’s campus.



The new $9.5 million, two-story Emergency Department being constructed at White Plains Hospital Center will more than double the department’s previous size. The entire emergency admission process will also be revamped, with noncritical patients receiving treatment in a 12-bed area. Children will be seen at the new Kylie and Louis R. Cappelli Pediatric Emergency Center, which features a private, kiddie-friendly waiting area. A larger critical-care space will be used to treat serious injuries; the majority of treatment areas in the new Emergency Department will consist of private rooms.


The new Emergency Department is just a portion of a five-story addition to the hospital. This new area will be home to a cardiac catheterization suite (expected to open in June) as well as several other services.


The hospital, along with New York Bariatrics, has been designated a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery for its surgical treatment of overweight patients. It also recently receive

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