August 21, 2019
A recent patient at Athol Hospital contacted the Athol Daily News stating that the access ramp inside the new Hillis Building is not compliant with state laws, and was concerned about the removal of the temporary ramp in front of the former front entrance of the Memorial Building that eliminated an emergency exit.
Dawn Casavant, Vice President of Development for the hospital, said the new ramp, located on the left side of the main lobby, meets ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) regulations. She said that the ramp “does appear somewhat daunting” and that it was remeasured after receiving patient feedback. “We are investigating other options to make the ramp more user friendly.” At the top of the ramp and to the left is a corridor linking the Hillis and Memorial Buildings. To the right at the top of the ramp are a few steps and both lead down to an elevator and Central Registration/Information in the lobby.
The front entry to the Memorial Building will not be reopened, Casavant said. Currently there are four emergency exits in that building and three in the new wing. Athol Building Inspector Robert Legare was also contacted by the same patient and had the state come in to do another inspection of the ramp, confirming that it is up to code. State regulation 521 CMR (Code of Massachusetts Regulations), Section 24 requires that the least possible slope should be used for any ramp. The maximum slope of a ramp must be at 8.3%. “We were able to do it at 5% since we had the room,” Legare said. The new addition flooring level is 2 feet 4 inches lower than the Memorial Building, which required the addition of two ramps in the main lobby, including the one in question.
The second ramp/corridor near next to Central Registration goes to a waiting area for the outpatient primary care center and specialty services. Stairs and an elevator are at the end of the corridor on the Mechanic Street side, providing access to Clinical & Support Options on the third floor. Wheelchairs are stationed near the elevators, the main entrance and throughout the hospital.
Casavant said during a tour Tuesday that included Tina Griffin, Chief Operating Officer, Kelly Cacciolfi, Marketing and Communications Manager, and an appearance by Legare, that the hospital is designed to be user-friendly and that changes and improvements continue, with the focus being on safety. Legare said extensive inspections have been done there by the state, the Athol Fire Department and himself.
Upcoming projects include the addition of hand rails in the Memorial Building and more signage. Outdoor benches are planned for the front of the building near the entryway. Sometime in the fall, the lab will be relocated to the first floor of the Memorial Building. In the next three or more months, the former ER will be developed into the new radiology department. Casavant said once the Medical Arts Building is demolished in the next three to four months, there will be more space for Emergency Room parking.
Griffin, who is also VP of Patient Care Services, said she encourages people who are apprehensive about visiting the hospital with all the changes to contact her and she’ll be happy to set up a private pre-tour to familiarize them with the layout. She also said coming soon there will be a MART bus stop located in front of the Hillis Building.
“We are here to serve the community,” Casavant said. “We want our patients to have a good experience every time they come here.” If a patient becomes confused, Casavant said, “please reach out to anyone with a badge. We’re always here to provide help.” Security personnel are contacted by Central Registration to assist with patient drop offs and to wheel or escort a patient to their destination.