NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A couple from Amherst is donating $1 million to support the emergency department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

According to a news release sent to 22News from Cooley Dickinson Health Care, President and CEO Lynnette Watkins announced the donation from John and Elizabeth Armstrong of Amherst. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to talk to the Armstrongs about their commitment to the Emergency Department.”

The money will be used to support the $15.5 million expansion of the emergency department that involves reconfiguring and renovating the undersized patient area for those in need of critical medical attention. The renovations are expected to begin at the end of 2022.

“I’ve seen firsthand the growing pressures on the Emergency Department. I have been admitted to the ED on at least three occasions and I’ve witnessed the increasing number of patients relying on the department.  Each time, I received excellent care and service despite the fact that the ED can be overcrowded,” said John Armstrong.

YouTube // John Armstrong of Amherst tells why he and his wife Elizabeth are donating $1 Million to help fund renovations and upgrades to the Emergency Department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

John Armstrong worked at IBM for 30 years and served as a presidential-appointed member of the National Science Board.

“We live in a retirement community with 115 other elderly people, many of whom need Emergency Department services. For their sake, as well as for our own possible future needs, we’re glad to have a role in making the Emergency Department as efficient and up-to-date as possible,” said Elizabeth Armstrong.

According to the news release, the emergency department is 40% undersized to meet the community’s needs. The emergency department treats an average of 300 injuries a year however, 6,000 patients needed to be admitted for further care last year alone.

Chief Development Officer Diane Dukette of Cooley Dickinson Hospital said this contribution from the Armstrong Family will be a big help to the hospital, “This gift is a tribute to both of them. It’s a tribute to the amazing care that our providers give every single day.”

Transforming Emergency Care: Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department

Dr. Watkins says, “Cooley Dickinson is grateful to John and Lise Armstrong for their generosity and for understanding that charitable giving is a critical resource to provide access and deliver the range of health care our community needs, demands, and deserves.”

The following information from Cooley Dickinson Hospital explains the need for transforming the emergency department:

Gifts to the Emergency Department will support more and better designed spaces and increased privacy for patient care; faster access to computerized tomography (CT) scans; improved coordination of care to allow face-to-face communication between providers and nurses; and more patient rooms.

In addition, the following improvements are planned:

  • Enhanced Geriatric Care. Our community is aging, with the percentage of Hampshire County’s population over age 60 expected to triple from 10% in 2010 to 32% by 2023. Currently, older adults make up 32% of Cooley’s Emergency Department patients. Older adults’ need for emergency care increases with age, as does the complexity of their conditions. Cooley Dickinson is proud to have recently received accreditation as a Level 3 Geriatric Emergency Department, but that is the highest level we can achieve with the current space limitations. Geriatric-friendly renovations that will allow us to achieve higher levels of accreditation will be incorporated wherever possible.
  • Larger Behavioral Health Pod. Hampshire County has a high rate of mental health hospitalizations, with 1,037 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents compared to 853 per 100,000 for the state. Given this, Cooley Dickinson’s current behavioral health pod, while state-of-the-art, is half the necessary size. Increasing the number of these specialized spaces will create a healing environment that respects the privacy of all.
  • Pediatric Observation Unit. 40% of Cooley’s Emergency Department visits are from children. Renovations will include creating a specialized observation unit for our youngest patients when they need to stay in the department overnight.
  • Streamlined Admission Process. When it comes to medical care, privacy is always critically important. This project includes renovations to the admissions area that further demarcates this space from the waiting area, increasing patients’ sense of privacy and improving their admission experience.