WESTERLY — Westerly Hospital's new pharmacy meets the highest industry regulatory standards, including ones for the chemotherapy drugs administered to patients in the facility's Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center that opened last year.

Longtime employees of the hospital say the $4 million pharmacy is an example of Yale New Haven Health's commitment to Westerly and the region it serves.

"It's truly a model pharmacy for the entire health system. To me, it shows the incredible investment that Yale New Haven Health has made in our community, the Smilow Cancer Center and the hospital in general," said Mark Rogers, director of pharmacy at both Westerly Hospital and L+M Hospital in New London. Yale New Haven acquired Westerly Hospital in 2016.

Rogers, who has worked at Westerly Hospital since 2002, provided a tour of the new pharmacy, last Monday. The highlight and most expensive element of the pharmacy is its clean room, where drug compounding will occur. The room has both a pressure- and negative-pressure area. Its walls are made of a tabletop counter material. The walls are seamless to avoid potential bacteria growth. Stainless steel surfaces abound and a portion of the room's air circulation system vents to the outdoors.

During Monday's tour, an employee wearing a full-body protective suit was cleaning the room.

"There are strict cleaning requirements for code compliance," Rogers said.

The new 2,632-square-foot pharmacy is about one-third larger than the current pharmacy, which was constructed in 1925. The new pharmacy is expected to go online this week.

A new pharmacy carousel provides vertical storage that saves space and improves efficiency by reducing the amount of time it takes to locate and stock drugs. The device also tracks inventory.

"We have nothing like that now," Rogers said.

Like Rogers, Dr. Kevin Torres, a 15-year employee of the hospital, was on board during the facility's lean times. The hospital filed for a form of bankruptcy protection in 2011.

"Talk about heading in the right direction. The thought of something like this going in is phenomenal. ... This is what you want to see," said Torres, Westerly Hospital's associate chief medical officer.

The new pharmacy had been slated to be ready sooner but was delayed slightly when the hospital directed its attention to the COVID-19 pandemic in the winter and spring. A wane in COVID-19 cases in the region and execution of a response plan allowed for returning to the pharmacy plans, said Patrick Green, the hospital's president and chief executive officer.

The pharmacy, the Smilow Center and the opening of a geriatric psychiatry wing last year all represent part of Yale New Haven's commitment to bringing about a resurgence at Westerly Hospital, Green said.

"We're pretty excited about this," he said.

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