Saturday, December 20, 2003

An old friend

We made a little history this week. The top management team from Van Duyn Home & Hospital sat down with senior management at CGH. It was a “first” for both administrations. None of us at the table could remember when the two administrations met as a group. We are not sure why we never met, but all agreed it’s a good thing to do.

Van Duyn traces its roots to 1827 when Onondaga County established a Poorhouse on Onondaga Hill. During the 1800s the county operated the “poorhouse,” an “insane asylum,” and “the county farm” on acreage that extended to the present Onondaga Community College (OCC) campus. In 1900 the sick residents were separated from the indigent residents, and the County Home and Hospital was established. In 1916 a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients was created on the site Community General Hospital now occupies. In 1959 New York State closed the sanatorium and transferred the buildings and 60-plus acres to Onondaga County (where Van Duyn now stands). The state also deeded the adjacent 42 acres to the Community Fund (for Community General Hospital). In 1954 the County Home and Hospital was renamed to honor Edward S. Van Duyn, MD, its respected medical director. In 1963 CGH opened its doors.

So CGH and Van Duyn have been neighbors on Onondaga Hill for 40 years. People often mistake Van Duyn’s large white fa├žade, visible from Route 81, as Community General. And some visitors to Van Duyn find themselves in the CGH traffic circle wondering why there are no “Van Duyn” signs.

CGH purchased steam from Van Duyn until we built our own steam plant in 1999. Nursing staffs, social workers, and case managers talk frequently as they coordinate care for the many patients we have in common. This past summer Dale Parsons, Commissioner of Long Term Care, and I met several times to discuss road changes being planned for the CGH campus by the New York State Department of Transportation. Once we started talking about roads, we wondered why our management teams never actually sat down together.

The road conversation started because the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) needs to eliminate the dangerous left turn at Seneca Turnpike as cars exit from the Van Duyn property and from our own “Woods Road.” The state will eventually ban left turns there. The state planned to require all city-bound traffic from Van Duyn to use a new road that would extend from Van Duyn property directly across CGH’s south “G” lot. This would have created a third intersection with CGH at Broad Road.

As you can imagine, our Broad Road neighbors were not very happy to learn of a third intersection with hospital property. That’s when Don Hamilton, a member of the Onondaga Town Council, asked CGH to consider an alternate route on our campus. Mr. Hamilton is also a neighbor. He lives on Elgin Drive and takes walks on the CGH and Van Duyn campus. Mr. Hamilton arranged for us to meet with County officials, and we agreed cars should use the existing traffic pattern, rather than cut a new intersection into Broad Road. As a result, Onondaga County arranged a big meeting with state DOT for officials from CGH, Van Duyn, and the Town of Onondaga. I am happy to say the state DOT accepted the change and has redrawn its plans. The new road will not cut across “G” lot. Instead, the new route will extend from Van Duyn road along the CGH tree line. It will intersect with the existing “G” lot driving lane and will use the existing intersection with CGH’s main road.

This will require DOT construction on our campus as the roads are upgraded to official standards. When construction is completed, the county will assume responsibility for the new route through CGH’s “G” lot and along part of our main road. For the most part, the new road will use the existing traffic pattern, but we will see changes in road construction, corners and signage next year.

As we discussed the road project, Mr. Parsons and I started talking about other things we might work on together. From there it was a short distance to “let’s get the management teams together.” So last Thursday the CGH vice presidents met with the Van Duyn administrative and medical leaders for coffee and cookies and interesting talk. How can we help our patients by facilitating communications about DNR or end-of-life issues? Can we learn from one another on ways to better manage certain costs? What about supply or energy savings? I’m not sure what will come from our talks, but we are actively interested in the things we might do together.

Sometimes you know a person for many years before you really open up to one another and build a friendship. It’s good to see CGH’s friendship growing with our nearest neighbor, Van Duyn.

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This text was originally sent to the employees of Community General Hospital, Syracuse, NY, as one of a series of letters from the CEO. The text was subsequently posted on the CEO's blog, More than Medicine, started in June 2007.