Modernizing River Hosptial

NNY BUSINESS
River Hospital does renovations to the facade of the hospital to match the newly renovated Monticello Hotel.

BY: Olivia Belanger
River Hospital has been making steady progress this year on its $4 million Hope + Healing Capital Campaign and building project, launched in June of 2015
 

     The campaign represents the most comprehensive modernization in the hospital’s history, and will provide a permanent home for several patient service lines. 

     Built in 1950, the hospital was built on land donated by the family of Abe Cooper. Edward John Noble, who also started Gouverneur Hospital, was the forerunner of starting River Hospital on the land. 

     Since its start, though, the hospital has never been significantly renovated to the extent of this campaign. The project will provide significant upgrades to the main hospital building, and also allow for the construction of a medical office building to house the River Community Wellness Program, the River Family Health Center and Physical Therapy. 

The historic Monticello building, donated by the Macsherry family in 2017, is a key component of the campaign, being transformed into the hospital’s administrative and financial support services.  

    The building, at 3 Fuller St., functioned as a hotel from the 1920s to the 1970s before it became a bar. Most recently, it served as apartments with a sushi restaurant in the basement.  

    Robert H. Macsherry, the son of late Watertown philantropist Richard R. Macsherry, purchased the building as a gift to ease construction concerns related to the hospital’s ambitious renovation plans.  

    “River Hospital saved my father’s life about four years ago after a fall [and head injury],” Mr. Macsherry said about his family’s donation in 2017. “It has a place in the hearts of many people in the river community. It’s pretty valuable and if it needs a little help, my family is happy to do that.”  

    Originally, the campaign had pegged the Monticello as an additional space for patient care, but CEO Ben Moore III said this new approach strengthened the hotel’s ability to comply with grant requirements established by the New York State Department of Health.  

    The first floor of the hotel has been renovated as office space, and the basement, second and third floors are stabilized, but not yet renovated for occupancy.  

The completion date for those floors is unknown at this time.  

    “I’m very optimistic,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s going very well and I am happy with the progress.”  

    With a majority of the hospital renovations to the former hotel complete, the next phase of the campaign has begun.  

    The main hospital will have renovations done, allowing for expansion and modernization of the hospital’s emergency department. It will also create a much more efficient reception and waiting area, according to Executive Director of Development Stephanie C. Weiss.  

    The number of emergency bays will be increased from five to eight, and patient privacy will be significantly improved by structural separation.  

Other upgrades to the main hospital include a second operating room for the ambulatory surgical unit, located on the hospital’s second floor.  

    “This addition will greatly improve operational and functional efficiency for the surgeons, staff and patient flow over the current single room design,” Ms. Weiss said.  

    The campaign will also allow for relocation of laboratory and cardiopulmonary service where they will be easily accessible to outpatients. There will also be significant infrastructure repairs and capital equipment upgrades to stay current with advances in technology and provide quality patient care.  

    While these renovations are being done, Mr. Moore said behavioral health will temporarily move into the hotel, as they are currently located in the temporary buildings being demolished.  

    “We found it would be quicker and cheaper to put behavioral health in the Monticello,” Mr. Moore said.  

    Primary care, behavioral health and physical therapy are all currently operating in undersized or aging infrastructure, Ms. Weiss said. The project will construct a new two-story office building just west of the existing hospital building to house these important services.  

    The new medical office building will allow for more and better space for delivery of the soldiers’ and veterans’ mental health programs, as well as the community and children’s mental health programs.  

    Physical therapy will also have an increase in patient privacy, expanded treatment offerings and adequate square footage for one of the most popular services the hospital offers.  

    Once the new office is built — the completion is aimed for September 2020 — behavioral health will move into it and the hospital’s administration, finance and development offices will move into the hotel permanently.  

    In regard to funding for the project, the hospital announced it surpassed its $4 million fundraising goal on July 29, during its annual Festive Evening fundraiser at Bonnie Castle.  

    The hospital has raised $4,124,345 in community donations.  

    Ms. Weiss said over 200 families have made multi-year pledges to the campaign, and hospital employees have pledged over $100,000.  

    “I feel very good about what’s going on now,” Mr. Moore said.