The Cheshire Medical Center is planning a ten-month emergency room renovation that is set to begin in early May.

“The changes will allow for more comfort, more privacy, a better ability to monitor patients and more staff space, with everything located in a more logical manner,” Emergency Care Center Director, Amy Matthews, said.

According to Matthews, the city planning board approved renovations in January, which will involve changing the layout of the existing emergency room, while adding 2,400 square feet to the department. Matthews said currently, curtains are the only things separating half of the ER’s 24 treatment spaces. Matthews expanded on why this separation was a problem.

“There’s no privacy, there’s minimal infection control, there’s not very much space—which makes it loud and not very comforting to patients and family,” Matthews said.

Matthews added the new model will feature identical single-bedrooms that are designed to increase patient placement flexibility.

Contributed Graphic / Amy Matthews: Cheshire Medical Center’s future design plans for an improved emergency room is shown.

Contributed Graphic / Amy Matthews:
Cheshire Medical Center’s future design plans for an improved emergency room is shown.

Vice President of Clinical and Support Services, Paul Pezone, also said the increase in mental health patients being treated in the ER was a reason for the change.

“We don’t have the most ideal layout to take good care of [mental health patients] and keep them segregated but in close proximity to the rest of the emergency department,” Pezone said.

Matthews said America’s growing dependence on computer work stations were other reasons a more spacious department was necessary. “We looked at national guidelines and realized that our square footage was not going to meet our needs, so we are doing a minor expansion in terms of space,” Matthews said.

Matthews reasoned that there have been, “growing pains and concerns” about the ER for several years, but said the hospital has made only minor adjustments in an attempt to find short-term solutions.

“You can only make so many temporary changes before you’re out of options, so we’ve really maximized the space we have,” Matthews said. Although both Pezone and Matthews insisted the changes were not the result of any specific events, the Keene Sentinel cited, “several violent incidents in recent years” may have been a factor in the renovation decisions.

Matthews acknowledged working in the ER can be very stressful at times and sees a more open area as a way to alleviate some of that stress. The process of identifying problems with the ER and finding solutions has been a long one. Matthews explained various hospital staff has been meeting with a senior project management team nearly every week for the past ten months, trying to determine the best approach to the renovation.

“First we looked at, could we do it without a major renovation? Could we do something less comprehensive and less expensive?” Matthews explained, “We realized we really needed to do the right thing for our community, we had to do a major expansion.”

From there, they submitted an application detailing the renovation plans to the state, which had a committee tour the ER in January before approving. The last step is a public hearing in April that will allow citizens to scrutinize the plans and ask questions. Barring a major setback at the public hearing, construction will start less than a month later.

Director of Keene State College Health and Wellness, Christine Burke, said the school has a close relationship with Cheshire Medical Center and indicated the two communities interact nearly everyday in some form or another.

“We obviously refer students [to the ER] in any kind of emergency situation, or if they need any medical care that is beyond our scope,” Burke said.

Burke, who estimates that students are treated at Cheshire Medical Center nearly every day, said the school stands to benefit from the changes. “Anyone who stays there—that’s going to benefit them and our students are included in that,” Burke said.


Zach Winn can be contacted at

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