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By Dr. Chitra Selvaraj

The good folks at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center are kicking off the summer with $6.7 million in capital improvements aimed at transforming the way health care is delivered to the Greater Niagara region.

The upgrades run the gamut from clinical area renovations and equipment purchases to campus renovations that improve accessibility and comfort.

"Keeping people healthy in the 21st century begins with providing a modern medical home that is warm and welcoming, technologically current and staffed to provide high-quality care," said Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo. "The investments we are making are truly transformational and send a clear message: The old Memorial is history. The new Memorial is leading the way as a center for community health."

Projects already underway or scheduled to begin in the next several weeks include:

The projects complement the recent expansion of primary care offices at Memorial's Medical Office Building, the Summit Healthplex and Freedom Place on Grand Island, and are being undertaken at the same time as the long-awaited reconstruction of 10th Street in front of the medical center.

"Taken together, these projects make a huge contribution to patient care, comfort and convenience," Ruffolo said. "In addition, we are replacing the medical center's main boiler -- an investment that will pay for itself over and over in improved energy efficiency."

One of the most exciting aspects of this transformation journey is the level of government and community support it has received, said Ann Marie Tucker, Memorial's vice president for foundation and community relations.

Tucker noted that nearly half of the planned improvements -- about $3.2 million -- are being funded through HEAL-NY, a state program to reform and reconfigure the state's health care delivery system and encourage improvements and efficiency in operations.

"Significant additional support has come to us by way of federal Community Block grant funding administered by the city of Niagara Falls and grants from such organizations as the John R. Oishei Foundation, James R. Cummings Foundation and Grigg-Lewis Foundation," Tucker said. "We are grateful for the confidence they have shown in our strategic plan to improve the health of the community we serve and give them a better patient experience."

Ruffolo noted the current round of projects brings the amount of capital investment made by Memorial during the past nine years to more than $40 million.

"Stay tuned," he said. "There's even more on the drawing board."

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com July 5, 2011