BANGOR, Maine — Leonard Minsky of Bangor was an overnight patient at Eastern Maine Medical Center about a year ago when a doctor entered his room with news of a crushing diagnosis.
The doctor wasn’t there to speak to Minsky, however, but to his roommate on the other side of a thin screen.
In the semiprivate room, Minsky was situated by the window, unable to leave without passing by the other man’s hospital bed.
“The doctor had some very serious news for the patient,” Minsky, 86, recalls. “To me, it sounded like a death sentence from cancer. I found it extremely awkward to be there, embarrassing in a way. Obviously I wasn’t looking at them, but I couldn’t wait until I could get out of the room. So it was very, very uncomfortable.”
Later, the other patient’s wife entered the room and the doctor explained the cancer diagnosis all over again. Minsky’s wife, Renee, was also present that time, and she, too felt uncomfortable.
As Leonard Minsky left to be discharged, he and Renee spoke briefly with the ailing man and his wife.
“We quite frankly stopped and apologized for our presence,” he said.
That experience prompted the Minskys, longtime patrons of the arts in the Bangor area, to donate $1 million to what’s been described by hospital officials as the most important project in EMMC’s history. The hospital will build a seven-story tower at its State Street campus as part of the $250 million project, demolishing the hospital’s Stetson building, adding more than a dozen operating suites, updating cardiac and obstetrics services, and relocating the neonatal intensive care unit.
Of particular importance to the Minskys are the hospital’s plans to add 73 private patient rooms.
Privacy is among several reasons hospitals are moving away from shared rooms. Single-occupancy rooms have become the gold standard in new hospital construction, allowing patients confidentiality in discussions about their health, better sleep, less exposure to infection and more opportunity for loved ones to visit. Many hospitals are also adopting private rooms in a push to remain competitive with other hospitals in attracting patients.
Minsky, who formerly served as president of Superior Paper Products in Bangor, described a prior stay at a Boston hospital, where a private room allowed him to speak openly to health care professionals without fear of being overheard.
“It made all the difference in the world in my recovery,” he said.
EMMC officials broke ground on the project in early December, and hope to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new building in about two and a half years.