Marking 125 Years Of Care

Waterbury Hospital Celebrates With Picnic, Flag-Raising

By Michael C. Juliano
Republican-American

WATERBURY - For the past 125 years, Waterbury Hospital has provided care to the region’s sick and injured.

As a way to mark that milestone and thank the community for decades of support, the acute-care hospital on Thursday held a community picnic and flag-raising ceremony with hospital officials and local dignitaries.

“It’s an extraordinary achievement at a time of impermanence and change to be able to be here and celebrate over a century and a quarter,” U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty, D-5th District said at the ceremony held at the flagpole in front of the hospital. “I want to thank everyone here today and all those who ever played a role in the important work that Waterbury Hospital has done and continues to do, and I hope will continue to do for another 125 years.”

She then presented the flag to Carl Contadini, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors. Contadini then gave the flag to Sam Beamon, chairman of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee, who raised the flag while the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played.

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Caring For City 125 Years

Sam Beamon, chairman of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee, prepares to raise a U.S. flag outside Waterbury Hospital on Thursday during the hospital’s 125th anniversary celebration. The flag, which was flown over the U.S. Capitol, was presented by Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty, D-5th District, seen behind the flagpole. At left is Jack Shea.

- JIM SHANNON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

 

Dr. Scott Kurtzman, right, chairman of surgery at Waterbury Hospital, serves food to hospital volunteer Nancy Rhodes during Waterbury Hospital’s 125th anniversary celebration Thursday at the hospital.

JIM SHANNON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

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“They’re always accessible, and every time I’ve been a patient, they’ve always been very helpful.” — Louise Wills, 74, a lifelong Waterbury resident and patient of the hospital

Following the ceremony, Geraldo C. Reyes Jr., administrative aide to Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, read a proclamation recognizing the hospital’s 125 years of service to Greater Waterbury.

“The City of Waterbury extends its very best wishes on this memorable occasion and expresses the hope for much continued success,” he said, reading the proclamation.

Darlene Stromstad, the hospital’s president and CEO, highlighted medical milestones over the past 125 years, including the advent of X-ray technology at the turn of the 20th century, followed by the development of antibiotics, advancements in cancer treatment and development of vaccines. She also mentioned some of the major technological advances over the past 20 years, including the use of lasers, surgical robots and orthopedic joints.

“Waterbury Hospital has been surviving those advances for the past 125 years and we plan on doing this for the next 125 years,” she said.

Before the ceremony, more than 1,500 area residents enjoyed a picnic at the hospital that included hot dogs, hamburgers, a deejay, face painting and cupcakes decorated with a little heart to commemorate the 125th year. There were also informational booths set up by several hospital affiliates, including Greater Waterbury Imaging Center, Heart Center of Greater Waterbury and Alliance Medical Group. Waterbury Hospital has been a wonderful asset to the community for decades, said attendee Louise Wills, 74, a lifelong Waterbury resident.

“They’re always accessible, and every time I’ve been a patient, they’ve always been very helpful,” said Willls, who has been a patient at least a dozen times.

“I hope they stay.”

Prior to Thursday’s event, Dr. Carl Sherter, the hospital’s chief of pulmonary disease for 40 years, discussed some of the major changes the hospital has seen over recent decades and the challenges it faces today.

One of the greatest changes at the hospital over the years has been the development of its teaching program, which offers residencies in medicine, surgery, respiratory therapy, pharmacy and other disciplines, he said.

“The whole atmosphere is that of a mini-academic center,” said Sherter, also a member of the hospital’s board of trustees. “What hasn’t changed is the pure friendship among the staff and how the staff cares about the patients.”

Sherter said the teaching program started 43 years ago teaching medicine and has grown to have up to 30 physician residents at any time.

“And coming out of this program is prestigious,” he said.

Sherter said the biggest challenge for the hospital today — along with many other hospitals in the state — is that it can no longer survive as an independent hospital due to cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and the hospital provider tax. As a result, the hospital is trying to partner with Los Angeles for-profit healthcare firm Prospect Medical Holdings, he said. This is its third try in three years to partner with a for-profit firm, and it also attempted to merge with Saint Mary’s Hospital in 2011.

“Waterbury Hospital is trying to do its fourth deal with Prospect, and I hope this goes through,” he said. “The Prospect (Coordinated Regional Care) program is the way medicine should be practiced in 2015 and going forward, which is keeping healthy and out of the hospital.”

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U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty, D-5th District, presents a flag that flew over the Capitol in Washington to Carl Contadini, left, chairman of the board of directors for the Waterbury Health, during Waterbury Hospital’s 125th anniversary celebration Thursday at the hospital in Waterbury.

- JIM SHANNON REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN