(From left) Nancy Hatfield, campaign committee chairwoman; Scott Gray, former board member; John Ronan, hospital president; Tim Dentry, Northern Light president and CEO; Donald Sussman, donor; board Chairwoman Sally Hutchins; board member Steve Rich and Jackie Carter, hospital chief of staff, ceremonially break ground on the new Blue Hill Hospital May 26. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTOS BY CYNDI WOOD

Work starts on new hospital

BLUE HILL — Wearing hard hats and wielding golden shovels, Northern Light Health and Blue Hill Hospital officials ceremonially broke ground on the new Blue Hill Hospital last week.

Heavy equipment already had taken care of the demolition on the construction site behind them, where the oldest portion of the facility once stood facing Water Street. The new hospital will rise in its place. The portions of the existing hospital that house the emergency department, patient rooms and other services will remain standing — and operating — until the new hospital is complete. When it opens, those older portions will be torn down. The plan is for care to continue uninterrupted throughout construction and the move.

“Today we’re gathered here to mark another step in the process of continuing to ensure this hospital has the capability to serve the community for many years to come,” said hospital board member Scott Gray at the May 26 groundbreaking.

“We are here to stay,” declared hospital President John Ronan.

The new, modern hospital will be smaller (“right-sized,” Gray phrased it) and built with efficiency and the town’s architectural style in mind. All 10 patient rooms will be private and fitted with up-to-date technology. There also will be a new, full-service emergency department and imaging services.

The Sussman Health Center is being renovated as part of the project and will have lab, rehabilitation and specialty services on the first floor.

The new hospital is expected to open in the summer of 2023. WBRC Inc. is the project architect and JF Scott is the general contractor.

Speakers at the groundbreaking paid tribute to the hospital staff, whose commitment has been unwavering throughout the pandemic and before it arrived.

Ronan said that when the hospital treated its first COVID-19 patient, he checked in with the nurse handling the patient’s care to see how she was doing.

“She said, ‘John, this is what we do. We take care of our community.’”

A large hole remains where the oldest portion of the hospital building once stood facing Water Street. The portions of the hospital that house in-patient rooms, the emergency department and other services will remain operating until the new building is complete in about a year.

Benefactor Donald Sussman, who has a home on Deer Isle, contributed $2 million to the project. A boating trip years ago cemented his love for Maine’s coastline, but it was a free meal that made him fall in love with the people. He’d stopped for dinner at the former Maggie’s Clamdigger one day. His order was already being prepared when he realized he did not have any cash. The restaurant did not take cards. Embarrassed, he pulled an employee aside and explained the situation.

“She said, ‘Stop. Enjoy your dinner. Come and pay me when you can.’ Didn’t even want to know my name,” Sussman recalled.

He said that kind of warmth and compassion is reflected in the hospital staff.

Gray said his mother was a nurse at the hospital for 40 years and helped design the current emergency room. Back then, it was her turn to celebrate a groundbreaking.

“I know Mom would be proud and I certainly am,” he said of this latest chapter in the hospital’s history.

For more information, visit NorthernLight.org/BlueHillPromise.

Cyndi Wood

Cyndi Wood

Managing Editor
Cyndi is managing editor of The Ellsworth American. The Ellsworth native joined the staff of The American in 2007 as a reporter.
Cyndi Wood

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