Annual Meeting Highlights Growth and $95 Million Renovation
Published in the Lowell Sun Metro 05/19/2010, Page A01
LOWELL - In the shadow of the buildings where physicians and nurses are busy ministering to patients, a large crowd of benefactors sipped sparkling wine under a tent and spoke of the future of Lowell General Hospital. "Dream with me," said LGH President and CEO Norm Deschene at the groundbreaking ceremony for the "Legacy Project," an ambitious $95 million expansion. "The philanthropy that is here today represents the collective legacy to future generations. I pledge to use your investment wisely."
Deschene explained that the hospital has been bound by the physical limitations of a campus that was designed more than a generation ago. And although the hospital has made some headway by renovating and retrofitting existing buildings, it has done little to improve capacity.
"Our success in the community has led to demand outstripping capacity," Deschene told the crowd of several hundred.
"We simply need new space."
The ceremony, held under an enormous tent on the very site where construction is expected to begin, came at the end of the annual business meeting of the LGH board of trustees that saw the appointment of Peggy Palm as the board's new chairwoman. "I've been chairperson for all of 15 minutes and I get to do this," Palm told the group, adding that LGH has always been a place where families can receive the highest level of patient care in a community setting. "If we are to achieve our vision as one the truly great hospitals in America, we need a facility that allows our vision to become a reality."
Deschene paid tribute to Rick and Martha Hanson, who donated $1 million in seed money to get the project off the ground. Fundraising efforts has brought that total to nearly $7 million.
Plans call for expanding the emergency and trauma centers to nearly three times their current size, and adding more than 100 new beds and three operating rooms. The project is expected to pump $200 million into the local economy and provide as many as 400 construction jobs and about 160 new, permanent jobs at the hospital.
"Today's celebration marks not only a new building but the collective hopes and aspirations we all have to continue to grow and improve the quality of health of those we served, said LGH Medical Staff President Nonnie Estella. "As a provider, we will have the best, not only in terms of equipment, but in people. The entire medical staff is thrilled with the vision that Norm and the rest of the board has had."
George Duncan, outgoing chairman of the board of trustees, offered a toast before the guests were seated for an elegant meal.
"Today is far from the beginning of this project," he said. "It is all part of an amazing legacy of caring for our neighbors in the Greater Lowell Community. The buildings that surround this quadrangle where we stand are a testament to the hopes, dreams and commitment of the Hanchett, Trull and Shedd families that came before us. And we are here to carry on the rich tradition of serving our fellow man."
The Gilbane Building Co. of Providence, R.I., was selected to be the project's general contractor. LGH was incorporated in 1891 and has 225 beds, 28 bassinets and a 21-bed Transitional Care unit. Located at 295 Varnum Ave., the hospital also has satellite locations in Chelmsford.
LGH Correction Note: Lowell General Hospital has 217 licensed beds, including 38 bassinets, and no longer offers a Transitional Care Unit.