PLATTSBURGH -- CVPH Medical Center symbolically moved into a new era Friday afternoon, an era that will involve more changes than the hospital has seen in decades.

Administrators and staff at the Medical Center joined area dignitaries in a ground-breaking ceremony to kick off the construction phase of the hospital's surgical-wing upgrade.

"It's ironic that 35 years ago next Tuesday, almost to the day, Champlain Valley Hospital closed its doors and moved over here," said CVPH President Stephens Mundy, referring to the major renovations made when Champlain Valley and Physicians hospitals merged.

With about 100 CVPH employees, doctors, board members and community guests listening near the front entrance to the Medical Center, Mundy wondered aloud what it would be like in 35 years when people looked back at the start of this project.

"This is a visible beginning of a new era," said Dr. Robert Collins, chairman of the CVPH Board of Directors and director of the hospital's Intensive Care Unit.

"We were state-of-the-art at that time (when the current operating room was constructed in 1972), but that is no longer the case."

During the 18-month project, nine new state-of-the-art suites will be created in the new wing, including two cardiac suites and seven operating rooms.

The Sterile Processing and Distribution Department will also be moved closer to the surgical suites.

When complete, the wing will add 45,000 new square feet to the Medical Center, along with a comparable amount of remodeled space.

Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), who secured $500,000 in seed money for the project, noted that she had participated in a ground-breaking for the hospital's new Medical Arts Building and commended the hospital and the community for achieving such growth.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), a former member of the hospital's board, echoed Little's thoughts on CVPH's growth, noting that she had gotten involved in hospital activities when FitzPatrick Cancer Center opened.

"It's a marvelous facility," she said. "Every addition you put on to this hospital makes a great hospital even better."

Longtime operating-room nurses Sue Tender and Howard Bell also spoke to the crowd, praising the hospital for its efforts to upgrade the facility and allow the staff to take advantage of the modern equipment that has made the current surgical space obsolete.

"It's a new dawn," Bell said, adding that he remembers moving from the sixth-floor operating room and feeling excited about the increased space at the current site.

"Looking at the plans (for the new facility), we are really going into the future."

With his typical soft-spoken demeanor, CVPH Chief of Surgery Dr. Duck Kim said he was excited to "leapfrog into the 21st century" to "provide the best possible care to members of our community."

The $35 million project will also include new patient-registration space and an updated front lobby.

The current lobby officially closes Monday morning as the construction phase begins in earnest.

jmeyers@pressrepublican.com

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