September 16, 2013

Gannett Health Services Fundraises for $55-Million Renovation

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With the number of patients rising and space for services shrinking, Gannett Health Services is likely among the top fundraising priorities for Cornell, according to University administrators.

Gannett’s existing building opened in 1957, when health care services were very different from the “best practices” of today, Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett, said in an email. With its last renovation completed in 1979 — when there were 5,000 fewer students on campus — Gannett is in pressing need of an expansion, University officials said.

“In response to a growing student body and increasing public health responsibilities, the Gannett staff has grown so much that we have had to ‘bump out’ some people to other locations (i.e. physical therapy, student health insurance, billing) and ‘push in’ others to more crowded and less functional spaces,” Dittman said in the email.

The renovation and expansion — which Cornell hopes will be complete by 2017 — will cost $55 million overall, with most of the money coming from the University itself. For the rest of the funding, the University needs to “raise a minimum of $18.3 million through philanthropy … [although] we have a $25-million goal for fundraising,” said Susan Murphy ’73 Ph.D. ’94, vice president for Student and Academic Services.

The fundraising effort gained momentum in July through a $5-million donation from Cornell Board of Trustees Chair Robert S. Harrison ’76 and his wife, Jane Harrison, according to a University press release.

Gannett’s limited space has made it challenging to fulfill its mission of providing healthcare to the student body, according to Janet Corson-Rikert, associate vice president for campus health and executive director of Gannett.

“We’ve become very adept at making our patients comfortable and ensuring their privacy, but there is no question that student demand for health services has outgrown the capacity of our Gannett facility to provide the amount and the quality of space needed,” Corson-Rikert said in a University press release.

If the expansion does become a reality, Gannett may see more spacious waiting rooms, larger exam rooms to “increase comfort, safety and efficiency,” as well as an expanded pharmacy to allow more convenient access to medication, Dittman said.

At this point, it is not clear at this point what changes, if any, will be made to the number of staff or the kinds of services and technology Gannett uses, Corson-Rikert said in an email.

Still, it is clear that the demand for renovations is pressing, University officials said.

Gannett logged more than 100,000 health care visits last year, while in 1980, it counted just 40,000, according to a University press release.

Additionally, visits to Gannett’s Counseling and Psychological Services have nearly tripled since 1996.

To encourage donors to make philanthropic gifts, both Harrison, and President David Skorton “are taking the lead with key conversations with potential donors,” Murphy said.

In order to make the expansion and renovation possible, the fundraising will have to be complete by December 2014 or January 2015, according to Murphy.

“All funds will have to be pledged and most in hand before we are authorized to begin construction,” Murphy said.

Although the project will help the University expand and renovate Gannett, Murphy said the actual design is still in the planning stages.

“The schematic design, we hope, will go for approval in October to the building and properties committee of the Board of Trustees,” Murphy said.

Murphy expressed confidence that the University will reach its fundraising goal for Gannett.

“I am very optimistic that we will reach what we need to raise,” she said.