Hospital readies for ramp, lobby projects

MIDDLEBURY — The front entrance of Porter Hospital will soon get a big makeover that will include an access ramp for mobility-impaired people and a spruced-up lobby.
It’s a more-than-$140,000 project that Porter Medical Center (PMC) officials are calling “long overdue,” and one that will be made possible through the generosity of the PMC Auxiliary and an anonymous benefactor who is making a $25,000 contribution in honor of longtime Porter President Jim Daily, who will soon retire.
“It will be a visible public project that will serve countless people for generations,” Porter spokesman Ron Hallman said of the ramp and lobby upgrades, construction of which he believes will begin early this summer and be completed within a few weeks.
“For many years, we have been talking about the fact that although we do have a couple of other entrances around the hospital that provide handicapped access, the main entrance to the hospital has a number of concrete steps that are not easily navigated by folks who have any kind of mobility problems,” Hallman said. “It’s been an ongoing conversation. (The project) has never been able to percolate up to the top of the capital project list. There always seems to be a clinical project or a piece of equipment or something that was deemed to be more important at the time.”
Fortunately, this is the year that the ramp/lobby project has topped PMC’s capital improvements list. And it’s a project that the PMC Auxiliary was confident it could cover with the funds it reaps annually from membership dues, the Round Robin used clothing and housewares shop in Middlebury, special events and donations.
“We wanted to do something visible,” PMC Auxiliary President Jan Bark said, adding the Porter Hospital main front entrance has been “an awkward entrance for some patients.”
The PMC Auxiliary is made up of community volunteers who raise resources for projects and programs that help the medical center accomplish its mission of delivering the best possible health care to patients. Examples of recent, auxiliary-funded projects have included a satellite kitchen for the Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and a special table at the hospital on which hip replacement surgeries can be performed. The organization also makes annual donations to help Lifeline subscribers, and funds two nursing school scholarships for local high school graduates.
“They do a lot,” Hallman said of the auxiliary.
Porter officials are pleased the auxiliary has pledged $140,000 over two years to cover the basic costs of the ramp/lobby project. Hallman said the supplemental, $25,000 anonymous contribution will ensure the project can be done with some extra flourishes. For example, plans call for the front façade of the 48-foot-long concrete ramp to be adorned with a brick veneer that will match the exterior of the hospital building. A visually appealing railing will assist those negotiating the ramp, and landscaping will help soften the scale of the project.
“We have lots of resources to do this well,” Hallman said.
Those who use the ramp, as well as able-bodied visitors, will enter the building through a more user-friendly set of doors, Hallman noted. The current front doors can be a challenge for frail folks to open. The new set will feature an automatic opening option (by push-button) for those who need it, according to Hallman.
A refurbished lobby will include new paint, flooring, furniture and other pleasing features.
Work on the ramp could get loud, but Hallman believes it will not inconvenience patients, whose rooms are located on the other side of the hospital building.
Hospital officials believe the project has been designed in a way that will not detract from the architecture of the building it is serving.
“We are very mindful of the aesthetic quality of the front of Porter Hospital and its historic place in this community,” Hallman said. “That is why we are working very hard to try to match the aesthetics, while concurrently making the hospital more accessible for every member of our community.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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