Donors played big role in Century Project

In 1896 the Sisters of Charity from Leavenworth, Kan., opened a 10-bed, wood-frame hospital in Grand Junction built with the help of community donations.

At that time, Sisters Balbina Farrell and Louisa Madden raised $50,000 to open the not-for-profit hospital.

Following in that tradition, St. Mary’s Hospital’s spectacular Century Project, which includes 434,000 square feet of new construction, was built with nearly $14 million in community donations.

“The success of the campaign was due to ownership,” said Penny Cowden, executive director of the St. Mary’s Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising arm. “St. Mary’s has a large impact on peoples’ lives. You’re going to use St. Mary’s at one time or another, it’s just a question of when.”

The Foundation placed a goal to raise $10 million for the Century Project, a mark that was met before construction on the 12-story patient towers began in 2005, Cowden said. The additional $4 million was used to create the Saccomanno Education Center, a series of three conference rooms to be used for staff training. Some people gave gifts of $1 million. Others, including some physicians, gave gifts of $50,000, Cowden said. As always, donors can specify which programs they want donations to benefit. A donor wall in the hospital’s lobby lists donors and will be updated periodically.

The $276 million project was funded with a combination of donations, hospital reserves and bonds.

Cowden said a depressed economy didn’t appear to have much effect on donations.

“In tough economic times, the need and the impact of things is even clearer,” she said. “The new facility is just a jewel for the community. I think people will be very grateful to have healing, patient rooms that are accommodating for families.”

Workers on Tuesday were placing the final touches on the addition that sports state-of-the art technology in specially designed rooms, including child-birthing areas, intensive care, surgical suites and orthopedics. New technology includes booms or moveable electrical bases that stem from the ceiling. Staff can attach equipment and move around patients, “so the patient is no longer tethered to the wall,” said Robert Jenkins, architect on the Century Project.

Natural light streams into many of the patient rooms and even the PACU, post-anesthesia care unit, to benefit the well-being of staff as much as patients.

“For the staff, this will be a wonderful place to work,” Jenkins said.

Carol Applegeet, director of perioperiative services, raved about the capabilities of the dozen new operating rooms, which are interchangeable and can be used for an array of surgeries. Cameras placed in the operating rooms can show real-time video of surgeries to other physicians in other rooms. The suites are monitored by video, and screens depicting all rooms can be viewed in a main control room. Specialized large, circular lights in operating rooms show the body’s true color and are positioned to brighten the patient’s body without picking up surgeon’s shadows.

“This core is the best thing we’ve got,” Applegeet said of the setup of the operating rooms.


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