Community Memorial Hospital Undergoes Renovations on Emergency Department


Sophie Krantz, Staff Writer

After four years of planning, Hamilton’s Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) is currently undergoing renovations meant to improve access and quality of patient care and safety. CMH is currently in its second phase of renovations focused on restructuring the emergency department. 

Community Memorial Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Jeffery Coakley discussed the need for such renovations in context with expanding demand. 

“We recognize the need to improve the facility that was built in 1952. We’ve had some minor upgrades, but need to completely renovate the interior space in order to create the environment that is going to support the quality of care we are providing,” Coakley said. 

Beginning last June, renovations to CMH have been structured into four phases. Completed in December 2020 and in use since Jan. 11, Phase one included the conversion of the nursing facility wing to a medical-surgical wing as well as the construction of a permanent lab draw facility. Current Phase two renovations are focused on changes to the emergency department. Future phases three and four plan to focus on completing the medical-surgical wing and patient wing and adding a new radiology department and medicine.

To comply with New York State’s COVID-19 response plan, CMH was required to increase bed capacity by 25%, going from 25 beds to 31 beds. Coakley discussed how the hospital’s surge plan was able to increase capacity while undergoing construction and emphasized the importance of ‘swing space’ in accommodating for the disruption.

“We have [increased hospital capacity] throughout the construction project without impacting our ability to see patients. We’ve been able to do this by really making sure we completed certain areas before starting others,” Coakley said. “Swing space was really important in this because it gave us the opportunity to build that all out before [moving on].”

Coakley described swing space as additional interim or flex space that allowed the hospital to undergo construction while limiting potential disruption. During this time, CMH has converted an unused skilled nursing facility into an interim medical-surgical wing.

“An example of swing space that was particularly important is how the nursing space is now an interim emergency department. It’s allowed us to have that entire emergency department under construction without impacting patients,” Coakley said. “CMH continued to provide five-star service for patients during the pandemic and construction project. Patients came from our community as well as other hospitals in the region that transferred COVID-19 patients to decompress their organizations.”

Coakley also discussed how important the swing space was in allowing for efficient and fast construction, noting that it would have been difficult to provide for patients while having contractors and workers there without it. 

Despite an efficient renovation process so far, Coakley expressed uncertainty over the length of the construction process. 

“[The construction time frame] is getting longer right now,” Coakley said. “We have a budget of $19 million that accounted for renovations to be completed in spring 2022, but we are now in the process of increasing the scope, so [we] don’t expect completion until late fall of 2022.” 

Colgate Junior Claudia Pilcher shared her beliefs regarding the necessity for these renovations in order to better accommodate patients.

“I think the construction is 100% necessary and I’m glad that Community Memorial is doing something about the current state of their hospital,” Pilcher said. “During my experience there I was struck by the small, crowded waiting rooms and the confusing layout of the hospital. I think this construction will really contribute to creating a better atmosphere for patients and encourage a better relationship between the hospital and Colgate students and Hamilton residents.”

Despite uncertainties around the duration of construction, Coakley expressed feelings of excitement following the success of phase one.

“We’ve been able to [create] a new level of hospitality service in a community hospital, which has been great for patients, and that’s really the goal of all this,” Coakley said in the context of renovations to in-patient rooms in the new medical-surgical wing. “Everyone at CMH is excited about the renewal of the hospital and we look forward to sharing the new facilities with Colgate University and the entire community.”