Norwalk Hospital’s multiyear plan to modernize its campus through a combination of renovations and new construction — the largest expansion in its 128-year history — may have been announced on June 23, but it actually dates back several years.
“I’ve been here for about 2½ years now, and this project predates me,” hospital President Peter Cordeau told the Business Journal. “I saw the original plans the day I walked in. Since that time there’s been a lot of fine-tuning.”
Although the hospital, part of the Nuvance Health system, did not initially specify the project’s cost, Cordeau estimated it will be about $224 million, of which “well over $100 million” is expected to come from philanthropists.
“Our aim is to rely on that and our annual discretionary capital,” he said. “Between now and completion, our goal is not to borrow a single nickel.”
Had the hospital decided to only renovate the existing buildings, he added, the cost would “probably have been in excess of $100 million.”
The work, which Cordeau said will start no earlier than a year from now as the fine details continue to be considered, will include replacing Norwalk’s Community Pavilion, built in 1953, and its Tracey Pavilion, which was completed in 1918 during the Woodrow Wilson administration.
In their place will be a 7-story, 180,000-square-foot pavilion on the southeast corner of the hospital’s campus, with a modern design relying on natural light and other measures to provide what Cordeau said will be a more comfortable and soothing environment for patients and staff alike.
The new pavilion will also be attached to Norwalk’s Main and McGraw Pavilions. Significant additions include a new intensive care unit and step-down unit, as well as a new labor and delivery unit and a mother and infant unit, upgrades that Cordeau said the hospital’s OB team has been seeking for years.
The mother and infant unit will include 17 private rooms, a six-bassinet Well Baby Nursery and a neonatal (NICU) intensive care unit for premature and critically ill babies. The NICU will feature six high-touch, high-tech infant rooms.
“Fairfield County and Norwalk are both experiencing a population growth due to Covid,” Cordeau explained. “We see an average of 1,200-plus deliveries a year right now, and our OBs expect that to continue to increase.”
Other improvements include three floors in the new pavilion being set aside for patients requiring hospitalizations for illness and injury, as well as for those having surgery. The medical/surgical unit will feature 90 private, contemporary patient rooms with designated space for medical equipment and for visiting loved ones.
In addition, the intensive care and progressive care units will be fully renovated and modernized, as will the Main Pavilion, where most patients and visitors are welcomed.
The improvements are expected to be completed sometime in the winter of 2025-26, Cordeau said.
As for Covid-19 — Norwalk’s new cases have been one or less per day for the past several weeks — Cordeau said that Nuvance is still working on the implementation of the Connecticut Hospital Association’s June 24 announcement endorsing a vaccine mandate for all hospital workers.
“Most of us have all long since been vaccinated from a patient-facing standpoint,” he said. “But we don’t have a formal policy or even a start date (from the CHA about when the mandate would go into effect) for it yet. What does it mean for nonpatient-facing areas like the board room or finance? If everyone is vaccinated, can you take masks off?”
Cordeau allowed that some employees could ultimately face termination if they refuse to get vaccinated.
In any event, he said, Nuvance hospitals will be “in lockstep” with the state’s other institutions once clarity is achieved.
He further said he anticipates another uptick in people getting vaccinated when school starts in the fall.
While some universities around the country are requiring proof of Covid inoculations by all matriculating students, as has the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, whose member schools include Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Norwalk Community College, and Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. Fairfield and Sacred Heart universities, both in Fairfield, “strongly recommend” students get the vaccine.
Cordeau also said he anticipates a rise in nonstudents getting Covid vaccinations — or possibly booster shots — once flu season arrives in October. “That’s when we will have advice from the CDC and others on what procedures we should all be following,” he said.
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