At long last, the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the reimagined HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston kicked off in fine style three years after ground was first broken. The 79,000-square-foot hospital expansion at the Mary’s Avenue hospital campus was complete.
Over 120 people had gathered Tuesday morning in the entrance lobby, a throng of enthusiastic well-wishers so noisy that at eleven in the morning the atmosphere was like in an improbable antechamber to a rock concert.
Healthcare workers and businesspeople, industry leaders, a healthy smattering of politicians, doctors in lab coats, marketing and communications operatives, and television network camera crews. Even two Benedictine nuns.
A special section seated local personages. Assemblymember Kevin Cahill stood among the crowd.
In front of wide floor-to-ceiling, southeast-facing windows, hospital executives sat at two long tables draped in blue cloth and looked on as the crowd hushed and HealthAlliance chaplain Father Yaya gave his invocation, a prayer to the holy one and the source of the universe from whom every good thing begins.
Facility chief medical officer and executive director Michael Doyle doubled as M.C. He led a quick succession of speakers to the lectern, working their way to the moment they’d be handed large scissors to cut a ceremonial ribbon.
Lieutenant governor Antonio Delgado has the rare gift of being able to inspire. With his customary aplomb the ex-congressman spoke of friendliness and feelings. He delivered approving words of religion. He spoke of the future. “To provide this new state-of-the-art facility, to provide quality care, and I think, importantly, to keep young people here. We want to make sure that our young people have chances, especially in the healthcare profession, to feel inspired, to come back home, serve and provide love for their community, for their loved ones.”
Pat Ryan had recorded a video which played to the room. “I’m sorry, I can’t be with you in person,” said congressman Ryan from behind a rich-grained desk. “But I wanted to make sure to come to you, at least virtually from my brand-new office here in Washington, DC. I was actually born at the old Benedictine Hospital where you all are right now.” He expressed his excitement for the completion of the new hospital and his gratitude “to those that did the hard work to build the beautiful new facility.”
The Mary’s Avenue hospital campus and the Broadway Avenue campus are the local hospitals that the Westchester Medical Center Health Network operates in Kingston. The HealthAlliance at Mary’s Avenue was formerly the Benedictine Hospital.
“To put it in perspective,” recalled Michael D. Israel, president and CEO of WMC’s health network, “we’re standing on a site where the mission of the Benedictine Sisters and their commitment to compassionate care provided healthcare for this community for over 100 years.”
The two Benedictine Sisters in the audience were warmly applauded. The Benedictine sisterhood had been easing the suffering of the afflicted at that location since 1901 when it was Our Lady of Victory Sanitarium.
Craig Sickler, chairman of the board of directors for HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, spoke. He recalled how the deal was struck at a ristorante in Lake Katrine.
“Rich [Mathews] was the chairman of the Benedictine board,” remembered Sickler. “I was the chairman of the Kingston board, I want to say 15-plus years ago, and he called me and said, Hey, let’s get this project back up back off the ground. And we met at Reginato’s, we had lunch, and we agreed to put our differences aside and work towards this project. And thank you to the Sisters who were very gracious throughout this entire process.”
Outside the southeast-facing windows, a macabre view presented itself. Sunlight shone over the snow-decorated stone monuments in the Montrepose Cemetery. That the two facilities are so near to each other can be surprising to some. But at its heart, a hospital, as long as everyone can afford it, fights against the suffering of the afflicted, and attempts to keep the living from the dead. But only temporarily.
“We provide care to anybody,” explained Dr. Doyle, “regardless of their ability to pay. To anyone who comes through here. We have a public-service mission and we live into that.”
New emergency room
Starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday, December 14, the emergency room of the Kingston Hospital will no longer take patients. Instead, all emergency care will be handled at the new 25,000-square-foot emergency care center included in the $113-million two-story 79,000-square-foot HealthAlliance addition behind the former Benedictine Hospital celebrated the day before.
The hospital expansion, renovation and enhancement resulted from the two-phase, Ulster County healthcare advancement plan initiated by WMCHealth in cooperation with the state, which provided $88.8 million. The goal of the advancement plan is to consolidate the operations of the two HealthAlliance hospitals in Kingston.
In addition to the new wing, there will be a full renovation of the existing 48,000-square-foot former Benedictine Hospital structure. Meanwhile, the former Kingston Hospital campus on Broadway will be adapted for other healthcare uses.
”While thus shiny new facility is impressive,” local assemblymember Kevin Cahill said, “it is merely a reflection of the dedication of our healthcare delivery community.”