WESTERLY — Two Westerly Hospital cardiologists turned into demolition men Wednesday when they got the chance to wield sledgehammers and mark the start of work on the hospital’s renovated cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Cardiologists Brian Cambi and George Bourganos took turns swinging their hammers to punch holes into a section of drywall that will come down to make way for the new $4.5 million lab area, which will be completed in February, National Heart Month.
“It’s time for it to be refreshed and made better, which fortunately with lots of different resources and local support, we can do,” Cambi, an interventional cardiologist, said. He is also responsible for growing cardiovascular treatment across the Yale New Haven Health system, which includes Westerly Hospital and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London.
“Westerly is in such a unique position with this gorgeous hospital tucked away here,” he said.
The “cool part” for Westerly is that the rebuilt lab will be used for many other specialities and disciplines besides cardiovascular disease, Cambi said.
Radiologists and other specialists, for example, will be able to make use of the area instead of referring local patients to L+M Hospital in New London or other hospitals for procedures.
“It’s a huge win for the patients, who previously would have to go elsewhere for the same procedures,” Cambi said.
The work by A/Z Corporation encompasses about 1,500 square feet on the ground floor. The cardiac catheterization lab will be moved into a fifth operating room, which had been used for storage. It will improve access for doctors, nurses and patients.
“It’s adjacent to our ambulatory center as well,” said Kerin Da Cruz, vice president of operations. “Patients access the hospital, come into this area and they’ll either stay or leave. It’s all a kind of a one-stop experience, whereas before the old location of the cath lab was very fragmented on the other side of the hospital.”
The work has been in the pipeline for several years, since Yale New Haven acquired the Westerly Hospital. It’s taken time to line up funding for the work.
The Westerly Hospital Foundation has contributed almost $1 million to the work. Another $1 million was specifically set aside for the project when the hospital came out of receivership and was acquired by Lawrence + Memorial. The remaining funds are in the hospital’s capital budget.
“It’s a physical demonstration of the hospital’s commitment to the community,” Da Cruz said. “We’re looking to have the services here and not send patients elsewhere. This is the first time in a long time that we’ve been able to demonstrate that commitment to the community.”
Da Cruz said the transformed, new labs would be attractive to physicians.
“In some ways it’s going to help enlist bringing the specialist to the patient as well,” she said.