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Lisa and Michael Kittredge

Lisa and Michael Kittredge at the recent cornerstone-placement ceremony at Cooley Dickinson Hospital

Cooley Dickinson Hospital President Craig Melin says the talks began about six months ago.

These were the discussions he and others at CDH had with Yankee Candle founder Michael Kittredge and his wife, Lisa, about the hospital, health care in the region, and the future of both. Those conversations eventually led to a $1 million donation from the Kittredges for CDH’s Caring for the Future Campaign, the fundraising effort that supports the hospital’s ambitious $50 million expansion program.

That 116,000-square-foot initiative will include several new facilities, including the Kittredge Surgery Center, which will be the heart of the expansion. Other components include a new central sterile laboratory, additional private patient rooms, a central, sterile supply department, and a new parking garage.

The Caring for the Future Campaign was launched in late 2004 with the goal of raising more than $6 million for the expansion project, with the balance coming through borrowing and funds set aside for the initiative. Response has been so great, the campaign’s goal has been raised to $8.5 million, said Melin, adding that the Kittredges’ gift moves the current total past $6.5 million and provides some additional momentum for the task of raising the balance.

The donation from the Kittredges is the largest for the current capital campaign and one of the largest the hospital has ever received. Other major gifts include $705,500 from CDH physicians, $500,000 from the hospital’s auxiliary, $442,650 from hospital employees, $400,000 each from Florence Savings Bank and Easthampton Savings Bank.

At a cornerstone-placement ceremony staged May 12, the Kittredges referred to CDH as their “home hospital,” one where their daughter, Kylie, was born, and where a second child they are expecting in July will be delivered.

Michael Kittredge praised the hospital for its role in delivering quality health care to Hampshire County residents, and also commended hospital administrators for achieving solid financial footing at a time when many hospitals in the Commonwealth are struggling with their bottom lines.

Melin said the addition, due to be completed early next year, addresses what he called the ‘core’ of the hospital’s operations and services. By this, he meant surgical facilities, inpatient care, and the emergency room, and all three will be enhanced by the new facility.

Plans call for eight new operating rooms, each roughly 50% bigger than the existing rooms. The added facilities will enable the hospital to perform more — and more-complicated — procedures, said Melin, taking greater advantage of technological advancements.

Plans also call for the addition of 32 private patient rooms, said Melin, noting that this step will effectively “decompress” the two-, three-, and four-bed rooms currently being used, and produce a higher quality of care for all patients.

The additional patient rooms and the new surgical center will also improve the overall quality of care delivered in the emergency room, said Melin, noting that the new facilities will enable the hospital to expand the ER and create a smoother flow of patients from the ER to the inpatient floors.

“There are two issues in our emergency department, both having to do with capacity,” he explained. “Our emergency department isn’t large enough, and the surgical program is currently adjacent to the ED; by relocating the surgical program it gives us the opportunity to expand the emergency department as the next phase.

“Also, one of the reasons the emergency department becomes overcrowded is because when we’re full in the rest of the hospital, patient-flow gets backed up in the emergency department,” he continued. “With the improvement in inpatient capacity, we can put more patients in beds when they need one, and this will ease that overcrowding.”