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A modern health center, wherever its location

WINSTED — Though officials from Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington have yet to agree on a plan for its emergency care services in the Winsted area, representatives from the organization came to town Monday night to address the Winchester Board of Selectmen and discuss the future of the Winsted Health Center and its emergency room on Spencer Hill.

Hospital spokesman John Capobianco led the discussion with selectmen Monday night, noting that Charlotte Hungerford has been looking at locations other than the Winsted Health Center for a possible new center, but that there is clearly a need in this area.

“We have had more than 300,000 encounters, both in the emergency room and in cardiac-pulmonary, lab and X-ray, so the center is extremely important to the hospital,” Capobianco said, adding that the emergency room alone receives about 7,000 visits per year.

Hospital officials said they are most concerned about modernizing and expanding their space, Capobianco said.

“We want to show our commitment to the Winsted community by expanding our services here,” he said. Plans include expanding cardiac and pulmonary rehab services, adding examination rooms, improving patient flow with a new floor plan and adding  a CAT scan service.

A nurse by trade, Capobianco said he had been employed by Winsted Memorial Hospital when the medical center closed in 1996 and stayed with the facility when it reopened as the Winsted Health Center. During the past 10 years, with Charlotte Hungerford Hospital operating the emergency room at the health center, there have been many discussions regarding moving the facility, and last year Charlotte began to seriously consider moving to another location.

Last fall, Charlotte Hungerford announced it was looking into the possibility of moving out of the Spencer Street facility to Barkhamsted. Torrington-based Borghesi Building & Engineering Company proposed a one-story, 18,290-square-foot commercial health services building at 390 New Hartford Road, next door to Mallory Brook Plaza. The plan includes a large parking area, emergency medical clinic, cardiac rehabilitation center and a helipad for emergency medical helicopter landings.

Barkhamsted’s Inland Wetlands Commission unanimously approved the application in February, and Winsted’s Water and Sewer Commission accepted an application from Barkhamsted to tap into the town’s water and sewer system for the new facility.

With the plans in the works, Capobianco noted, the Winsted Health Center Foundation held a meeting recently with Charlotte Hungerford Hospital representatives, asking them to hold up on the Barkhamsted project and allow the foundation enough time to develop its own plan. Capobianco said hospital officials agreed to wait on the proposed project in Barkhamsted, pending the submission of alternative plans for a new or upgraded medical center.

“There are certain tenets that we want to address,” Capobianco said. “Accessibility is important. We want to make sure it’s patient-friendly and that it can be seen easily. We also need helicopter access.”

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s emergency medical clinic at the Winsted Health Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is the health center’s largest tenant. In addition to the emergency clinic, the hospital runs cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, as well as blood drawing, laboratory, X-ray and digital mammography services. The hospital’s four-bed Hungerford Regional Sleep Laboratory is also located there. Separate services run by other private entities and the Department of Veterans Affairs are also located at the center.

Selectman Michael Renzullo said he was glad to have the Winsted Health Center in Winsted after suffering a stroke recently. He was seen there before being sent to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. He was then was sent by LifeStar helicopter to Hartford Hospital for treatment after the episode.

“If [the Winsted Health Center] had been farther away, who knows what would’ve happened,” he said.

Capbobianco said that, wherever the health center is located, hospital officials want it to provide greater service to the greater Winsted community, with a facility that is approximately 20,000 square feet in size.

“From a business perspective it has to work financially,” he added. “We’re hoping to make a decision by the spring of 2011.”

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