"We have been blown away by the community's input into this," says Thompson Health's president and CEO

CANANDAIGUA — During Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Intensive Care Unit and Pulmonary Medicine Clinic at Thompson Hospital, Thompson Health President/CEO Michael Stapleton noted that $9.5 million of the necessary $12.3 million for the project has been raised — "an absolutely astonishing number," he said.

"We have been blown away by the community's input into this," Stapleton said at a gathering in the hospital cafeteria attended by some 150 people immediately prior to the groundbreaking.

Thompson is upgrading from its current seven-bed ICU to a 12-bed unit, with an ongoing capital campaign. This move will mean being able to keep more patients at Thompson rather than send them to Rochester when hitting capacity, and will support the hiring of intensivists, or physicians specializing in the care of critically ill patients.

The project is expected to take 12 to 13 months to complete.

"This celebration is certainly very special," said Dr. Justin Weis, medical director of ICU and Respiratory Medicine at Thompson Hospital. "It's one I've been dreaming about since my start here five years ago."

Additional space in the new facility will mean a departmental layout supporting a more robust team and more effective delivery of care, Weis said.

Stapleton characterized this and other projects as further steps in the process that began when Canandaigua philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson established the original community hospital on North Main Street and continued through the work of community leaders such as longtime hospital Board of Directors member Marvin Sands and former CEO Linda Farchione. He noted it's the next natural step in Thompson achieving its vision of becoming the leading community healthcare system in western New York.

The ICU expansion is one of three substantial current projects for Thompson, Stapleton noted. The others are the transition to a new electronic health record system — the same one UR Medicine uses, allowing seamless information sharing among hospitals — to go live Feb. 3; and the recent acquisition of Canandaigua Medical Group across Parrish Street from the hospital. CMG, which recently moved into its new 44,000-square-foot building, offers OB-GYN, internal medicine and pediatrics. It has a lab draw station and soon will add a pharmacy with drive-through capability.

These projects are "plain and simple, what's going to keep Thompson Health here for decades to come," Stapleton said.

"We're not going to survive, but we're going to thrive," he added.

Stapleton expressed thanks to the Sands Family Foundation and Constellation Brands for their lead gift of $4 million. Another $3.5 million has come from community donors. UR Medicine provided $2 million, as the project is seen as benefiting UR and Highland Hospital as well, freeing up their ICU beds for patients who need quarternary care, the most advanced forms of health care. He also noted that the project would not be happening without Thompson's affiliation with UR Medicine, which took place in 2012, and said their pulmonolgists will help ensure 24/7 coverage for the critically ill patients in Thompson's ICU.

He added that the design of the 12-bed unit had considerable input from the nurses and ICU staff members. "They're the ones on the front lines. They know what works," he said.

Offering remarks as well as Stapleton and Weis were Thompson Health Board of Directors Chairman Jim Barr — "the board is looking forward to having everybody back here in early 2020 to open this place up," he said — as well as state Senator Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, and state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua.

"You always find a way to dig deep and give, and give and give," Helming said of the community. "You're willing to work hard to provide for our community needs."

Helming thanked Thompson for being "an economic driver" of the community, offering many job opportunities. There are currently nearby 1,800 employees of the health system, which has locations in Ontario, Wayne and Livingston counties. Stapleton said it generates $220 million in economic activity annually.

"To see how Thompson Health has grown since I've been a resident of Ontario County has been amazing, Kolb said, adding the community is "very blessed to have the leadership we have at Thompson," including the CEO, the board and UR Medicine. He said he personally has many memories, stretching back many years, of care he and family members have received at Thompson.

"It's heartwarming to see everyone today because it's great to take health care to another level in our region and our community," Kolb said.

"This is such a jewel," Kolb added. "We are really, really blessed."