Daily News

Amherst Couple Gives $1 Million to Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department

NORTHAMPTON — Dr. Lynnette Watkins, the new president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Health Care, announced the receipt of a $1 million gift from John and Elizabeth Armstrong of Amherst to support the hospital’s Emergency Department.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to talk to the Armstrongs about their commitment to the Emergency Department,” Watkins said.

The Armstrong’s gift will support Transforming Emergency Care: Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department, a $15.5 million expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation which will allow the hospital to meet the ever-evolving emergency medical needs of community members, from infants to older adults.

For John, whose accomplishments include a 30-year career at IBM and serving as a presidential-appointed member of the National Science Board, supporting the hospital fits in with his and his wife’s philosophy of giving. “Lise and I are blessed to have resources, and one of our main criteria for giving is to help out right where we are,” he said.

Their reasons to support Cooley Dickinson are born of direct experience. “I’ve seen firsthand the growing pressures on the Emergency Department,” John added. “I have been admitted to the ED on at least three occasions, and I’ve witnessed the increasing number of patients relying on the department. Each time, I received excellent care and service despite the fact that the ED can be overcrowded.”

Elizabeth added that “we live in a retirement community with 115 other elderly people, many of whom need Emergency Department services. For their sake, as well as for our own possible future needs, we’re glad to have a role in making the Emergency Department as efficient and up-to-date as possible.”

Cooley Dickinson’s Emergency Department is 40% undersized to meet the community’s needs and cares for many patients who require critical medical attention. The number of patients visiting the department has grown from 17,000 annually in the 1970s to nearly 34,000 in recent years. For those patients, Emergency Department teams treat approximately 300 traumatic injuries per year; last year alone, over 6,000 patients needed to be admitted for further care.

The Armstrongs recognize the urgency of expansion and renovation. They also recognize that hospitals everywhere are financially challenged, due to changes, beginning in the late 1980s, in state and federal reimbursements. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a dramatic slowdown in volume of patients and in revenues, has put the importance of philanthropy into sharp relief.

“Cooley Dickinson is grateful to John and Lise Armstrong for their generosity and for understanding that charitable giving is a critical resource to provide access and deliver the range of healthcare our community needs, demands, and deserves,” Watkins said.

Gifts to the Emergency Department will support more and better designed spaces and increased privacy for patient care, faster access to computerized tomography (CT) scans, improved coordination of care to allow face-to-face communication between providers and nurses, and more patient rooms.

Other planned improvements include enhanced geriatric care, a larger behavioral-health pod, a pediatric observation unit, and a streamlined admission process.

The groundbreaking for the Emergency Department renovations is expected to occur at the end of 2022.