Officials pleased with Westerly Hospital's ongoing turnaround

Westerly - A year after it became part of the Lawrence + Memorial Healthcare network, The Westerly Hospital's turnaround from the brink of closure is continuing.

Stephen Green, president of Westerly Hospital's Board of Directors, told a gathering of staff at a one-year anniversary celebration Monday that patient volumes continue to increase as the building is repaired and new equipment purchased.

"Thank you for all you do at Westerly Hospital to improve the health of the region," Greene told approximately 60 staff gathered in the hospital's conference room, adding that their willingness to stay with the hospital through the difficult receivership and purchase process provided the basis for the recovery. After brief remarks by Green and Bruce Cummings, president and chief executive officer of L+M Healthcare - the parent company for L+M Hospital, the L+M Medical Group, Westerly Hospital and the VNA of Southeastern Connecticut - staff was treated to cake, cookies and gifts of plastic travel cups with the L+M logo.

"The changes have been good," said Jane Doorley, a registered nurse at Westerly Hospital since 1988, as she finished her cake. "The staff are very enmeshed in being here, and we have a lot of loyalty from patients."

After years of operating in the red, Westerly Hospital ended fiscal 2013 with a 2 percent margin of revenues over expenses, and is on track for a 3 percent gain in the operating margin for the current fiscal year, said Mike O'Farrell, spokesman for L+M. Emergency department patient volumes have increased 2 percent compared to a year ago, he added.

Greene said he and Cummings have been invited to give a presentation to the Westerly Town Council in early July about the progress of the hospital since the takeover. Among other information, he will talk about the $5 million invested in building and equipment projects thus far, including a new roof, drainage repairs to the parking lot, a new CT scanner that's about to arrive and technology infrastructure upgrades, he said. Another significant achievement of the past year, he added, is the signing of a new three-year contract in March with the two unions that represent nurses and other staff.

During his remarks, Cummings, said he is grateful to the many staff who stayed at the hospital through the uncertainty of the receivership and acquisition process.

"One of my greatest joys is the people who are still here, who are able to preserve this uninterrupted tradition of care to the community," he said.

j.benson@theday.com

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