April 17, 2014

Middlesex Hospital Breaks Ground for New Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook

“Shovelers,” left to right, Noel Bishop, First Selectman of Westbrook; Vincent G. Capece, President & CEO, Middlesex Hospital; Harry Evert, Senior Vice President, Middlesex Hospital; Christopher Seaton, Chairmain of the Board of Directors, Middlesex Health Systems; Darlene Briggs, Chairwoman, Westbrook Division, Middlesex Chamber of Commerce; and Larry McHugh, President Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop was all smiles at the October 10 official groundbreaking ceremonies of the new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, scheduled to open in Westbrook in 2014. Bishop should be pleased, because for the past 37 years Middlesex Hospital has been operating its Shoreline Medical Center in neighboring Essex, and now the clinic is moving to Westbrook.

When the Medical Center moves from Essex to Westbrook, it is uncertain as to what the Hospital will do with the Essex facility. A number of possibilities are being assessed.

Worth noting is the fact that both Westbrook First Selectman Noel Bishop and Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna were on hand for the ceremonies. However, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman was unable to attend the celebration.

There was Included in the tent of notables, which had been set up off the Tanger Outlets, were the President and CEO of Middlesex Hospital, the Chairman of its Board of Directors, local Chamber of Commerce executives, among other dignitaries. Also, attending were over a hundred well wishers standing under a breezy tent that protected those present on a blowy and sunny afternoon.

Past History of Middlesex Hospital’s Outreach Medical Services

At the groundbreaking a number of speakers noted that that it was over 40 years ago that Middlesex Hospital made its decision to expand its emergency medical services out into the shoreline communities. In fact, the first “out placing” of emergency medical services by Middlesex Hospital took place in a single small building located along Main Street in Centerbrook.

This facility was a great success, and it demonstrated that there truly was a need for an outreach of emergency medical services along the shoreline. Then, in 1975 the hospital moved its Shoreline Medical Center from Centerbrook to a piece of privately donated land on Westbrook Road in Essex.

The Essex shoreline clinic to be phased out in 2014

Providing emergency medical services will continue to be offered at this Essex location up until the new Medical Center opens. Then, after that all emergency medical services will be provided at the new facility in Westbrook.  The exact of address of the new facility will be will be 250 Flat Rock Place in Westbrook.

A Brand New Chapter for Emergency Medical Care

As the hospital’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, Christopher Seaton, put it, “Times have changed.” Or, as the hospital’s President & CEO Vincent G. Capece said, “This is a brand new chapter for high quality, emergency medical care.”

Also, cited by the parade of speakers was the fact that the new Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook would be 44,000 square feet in size, which is twice the size of the present facility in Essex. Others noted that there will be plenty of parking at the new emergency facility, as well as, perhaps the most obvious advantage of all; the clinic’s location will be very close to Exit 65 on I-95, a heavily traveled Interstate.

87,000 Visits Annually at Essex Clinic

To illustrate the enormous success of the concept of off-site emergency medical care, the Essex facility is now seeing 87,000 patient visits annually. One speaker termed the off-site formula of medical care as, “a humanistic approach to medicine.”

It also appears to be a very profitable approach, one where you can not only double the size of your present facility, but leave enough room on the land to treble the size, if necessary.

While the Speakers Spoke, the Nearby Bulldozers Roared

During the remarks in the tent on the grounds of the Tanger Outlets, just down the road on the right hand side, going towards I-95, there was a huge amount of earth moving going on. Across an expanse of land that was until a week or so ago a heavily forested area, the ground was now being leveled to make way for the new emergency clinic.

The site being cleared for a 44,000 square foot shoreline clinic building in Westbrook

Large boulders, which were just a few days ago were underground, were now stacked up in one gigantic mound. Everything was being done to level a shelf of land for the building that will house Middlesex Hospital’s new Shoreline Medical Center.

Giant earth mover that is being used at site of new Shoreline Clinic

Factually speaking, it was here at the construction site, where the first, true groundbreaking took place, perhaps a week or so ago.  Furthermore, the dress of those who participated in this first “groundbreaking” wore work clothes and not business suits, although perhaps a suit or two came by for a brief look.

Still, the vision, and the willingness to take large risks to adopt a new and growing approach to providing medical care, belonged to those who wore the suits and spoke at the ceremonies under the tent up the road from the construction site.

Nine Features for the New Clinic’s Success

As for the nine primary features of this new facility, they were listed on one of the tent walls as follows: 1) Improved location; 2) Double the size of our current facility; 3) Expanded emergency center; 4) Improve patient privacy: 5) Separate entrance to outpatient center; 6) Lab services; 7) Infusion therapy; 8) Expanded radiology services; and 9) Designated Women’s imaging area.

Of this list perhaps the first, “Improved location,” is the most important. The new Westbrook location, although certainly not as desirable for Essex residents, for other shoreline residents, the new location on I-95 will be far more convenient and accessible.
Residents of Old Lyme and Lyme, and even Niantic , now have simply to get on I-95 for quick access to the facility. Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Clinton residents will also have easier access to a facility on I-95. Also, residents in the towns along Route 9, which merges seamlessly into I-95, will also have greater ease of access.

In a way the new location is a “win, win” for almost everyone. The hospital can address increased patient volumes and patients get more accessible medical care in an expanded and more modern facility.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed new Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook