October 13, 2021

Amherst Couple Makes a $1 Million Gift to Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department

October 13, 2021

Lynnette M. Watkins, MD, MBA, the new president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Health Care, is pleased to announce the receipt of a $1 million gift from John and Elizabeth Armstrong of Amherst to support the hospital’s Emergency Department. Says Dr. Watkins, “It has been an honor and a pleasure to talk to the Armstrongs about their commitment to the Emergency Department.”

The Armstrong’s gift will support Transforming Emergency Care: Campaign for the Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department, a $15.5 million expansion, reconfiguration, and renovation which will allow Cooley Dickinson to meet the ever-evolving emergency medical needs of all members of our community, from infants to older adults.

For John, whose accomplishments include a 30-year career at IBM and serving as a presidential-appointed member of the National Science Board, supporting the hospital fits in with his and his wife’s philosophy of giving.

“Lise and I are blessed to have resources and one of our main criteria for giving is to help out right where we are,” he says.

Their reasons to support Cooley Dickinson are born of direct experience. “I’ve seen firsthand the growing pressures on the Emergency Department,” adds John.  “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.”

Watch a video message from John Armstrong: “My wife and I are very happy to be able to support the expansion of the Emergency Department and show gratitude and thanks for the care I received.”

Elizabeth notes, “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.”

The Urgency of Expansion and Renovation

Cooley Dickinson’s Emergency Department is 40% undersized to meet the community’s needs and cares for many patients who require critical medical attention. The number of patients visiting the department has grown from 17,000 annually in the 1970s to nearly 34,000 in recent years. For those patients, Emergency Department teams treats approximately 300 traumatic injuries per year; last year alone over 6,000 patients needed to be admitted for further care.

The Armstrongs recognize the urgency of expansion and renovation. They also recognize that hospitals everywhere are financially challenged, due to changes, beginning in the late 1980s in state and federal reimbursements. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a dramatic slowdown in volume of patients and in revenues, has put the importance of philanthropy into sharp relief.

Says Dr. Watkins, “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.”

About the Transforming Emergency Care Campaign

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.

The groundbreaking for the Emergency Department renovations is expected to begin at the end of 2022.



2 thoughts on “Amherst Couple Makes a $1 Million Gift to Cooley Dickinson Emergency Department

  1. Yesterday i went to Cooley Dickinson ER for a potential heart problem.
    i want to express my deep thanks for the exceptional professional, compassionate , courteous and just generally impressive treatment i received.

    Dr Steinberg and all the others who i interacted with were an outstanding team.

    Thanks to all of them.

    Frank Karasz

    1. Thank you, Frank, for sharing your experience. We are so happy to hear all went well with your ER visit and will make sure Dr. Steinberg and his team are made aware of your comments. Take care!

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