ELLSWORTH, Maine — The end is in sight for the new emergency department at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital.
Construction on the new facility is 90 percent completed, and an anonymous $500,000 donation has helped move the hospital closer to its fundraising goal for the project. The gift, which hospital officials formally announced on Wednesday, came in the form of a challenge that will provide a one-to-one match for new donations to the emergency center fundraising campaign.
“This is a great shot in the arm for the campaign,” said Bob Merrill, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees and of the capital campaign.
The price tag for the new emergency center is $10 million, and the hospital must raise $5 million through charitable contributions. Before the donation, Merrill said Wednesday, the campaign had raised $3.6 million. With the donation and the anticipated match, the total of gifts and pledges will be $4.6 million, he said.
The campaign began in September 2008 with an initial contribution from F. Eugene Dixon Jr., for whom the emergency center is named. Since then, Merrill said, community members and hospital staff have worked to raise the funds needed.
Hospital employees have surpassed their initial goal of $200,000, having raised about $235,000, according to Jack McCormack, the hospital’s interim CEO.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm here,” McCormack said. “It shows that they are committed to the place where they work.”
The community also has responded to the campaign, despite the tough economic times.
“We’re humbled by the generosity the community has shown,” said Dr. Kenneth Christian, head of the hospital’s emergency department. “This would not have been possible without them digging deep. Hopefully, we can come through for them.”
The new 20,000-square-foot emergency center is more than triple the size of the existing emergency area in the hospital, which was designed to handle about 12,000 cases. It now handles about 18,000 cases annually, making extremely crowded conditions both in the emergency room itself and in its waiting area.
With 15 examination rooms, including two trauma rooms, the new emergency center will have the capacity to treat 24,000 patients each year. The extra space, Christian said, will allow the ER staff to handle normal emergency traffic, plus the spike periods.
“Given the rate of growth we’ve seen, I expect we’ll be using a substantial portion of the rooms a substantial portion of the time,” he said. “And we’ll be filling it not infrequently.”
The hospital expects to add staff for the new emergency room and already is hiring people to fill those positions, Merrill said.
The new facility will include special equipment, including an on-site X-ray machine and improved information technology, which will improve patient care. According to Christian, the new facility will provide more pleasant and private care more quickly. For the staff it will mean less time spent on “traffic control” in crowded conditions and more time on taking care of patients.
As the hospital is seen more and more as a regional facility serving Hancock and western Washington counties, the new emergency center will provide additional service for an increasing number of patients, Merrill said.
“More and more people are coming here all the time, and we need to grow to meet the increasing needs of the community,” he said.
The hospital expects to receive the keys to the new facility sometime in January. Moving in new equipment and moving from the existing facility will take time, but the hospital has scheduled a community open house for 2 p.m. Feb. 27. McCormick said the new facility will be open and treating patients by March 1, 2010.