In re-purposed hospital wing, patients find access to specialty care and a sense of home

Photo of Currie Engel

NEW MILFORD — After opening its primary care practice in 2017, New Milford Hospital saw a need for further specialty services to better serve patients. A third-floor wing that opened at the end of February is meeting that need — and doing it New Milford style.

The wing, which had housed administrative offices, is a multi-speciality unit with four medical specialty offices and a fifth office for cardiology on the first floor. Added services include pulmonology, gastroenterology and general surgery.

Dr. Thomas Koobatian, the hospital’s executive director, said the multi-speciality services have made hospital care more convenient for patients.

“Primary care doctors do rely on specialists like a cardiologists or pulmonologists for patients with special needs in those areas,” he said. Since they serve so many older residents in New Milford, allowing them options that eliminates extra travel, even as close as Danbury, can lessen the burden.

“I think the access really is the most important thing,” Koobatian said.

According to Koobatian, the primary care addition was very successful and has kept them busy in recent years, but “actually created a need for specialists” that doctors could refer patients to. The hospital has already logged roughly 3,000 visits to the wing so far, according to Koobatian.

“It’s been very successful. They’ve really gotten quite busy, quite quickly. It’s a beautiful, brand new design, all the equipment is modern,” he said.

But it wasn’t just about adding new specialties to the wing. The hospital wanted to make the area inviting and familiar.

“We also wanted to make it really comfortable a lot of people don’t like going to a hospital,” Koobatian said.

They turned to art.

Serving the people, not just the ailment

The 100-year-old hospital hasn’t just focused its services to the needs of the community, but also to the character and style of New Milford, as well. All along the corridor leading to the multi-specialty wing are photos of New Milford’s Barn Quilt Trail.

So, as patients wander through the new wing, they will get a glimpse of home.

Thanks to a donation from Julie and Bob Bailey, this gallery of photos, depicting the 19 different quilts on the state’s only Barn Quilt Trail, will be on display for all to see.

“It really does connect our patients to our community,” Koobatian said. “As soon as they get out of the elevator, they’re looking at two beautiful barn quilt photos.”

Terri Nackid, Nuvance Health’s leadership and planned gifts officer, brought the idea for this new gallery to Julie Bailey, a member of the Barn Quilt Trail committee. Soon, the hallway was filled with images of New Milford’s art.

“It was a happy thing that this came together in this way and it was a perfect way to show the barn quilt in a setting that really made sense,” said Nackid. “The hospital is really at the heart of the greater New Milford community. We just really wanted to have another way to celebrate that.”

The large 8 foot by 8 foot squares depict colorful, hand-painted, historical quilt patterns that were uniquely chosen by barn owners with input from local artists. Each barn’s quilt square is made in the traditional New England or modern original style and contains elements of the family or farm’s story. That’s part of the reason for the gallery’s inclusion in the hospital.

“The hospital is really at the heart of the greater New Milford community. We just really wanted to have another way to celebrate that,” said Nackid.

While the idea for the project dates back to 2013, the first phase of painted quilt square installations began in 2017.

The photos on display at the hospital were shot by local photographer and graphic designer, Linda Pouder, and are also featured on the New Milford Barn Quilt Trail website.

Julie Bailey said she hopes people will be inspired to bring a Barn Quilt Trail to neighboring towns, and create an even larger network of trails to attract tourists.

“They will have hundreds if not thousands of patients who will pass through those doors every year,” said Julie Bailey.

Koobatian has even picked out some favorites — photos that remind him of another time in his life.

“I went to medical school at the University of Vermont, so I just love the ones with the cows,” he said, referring to three patterns hanging at farms in the area titled ‘Grandfather Hipp’s Cow,’ ‘Holstein Cow’ and ‘Cows and Baskets.’

The art also serves a larger purpose.

“If it is convenient to access the services and it’s comfortable, they’re more likely to make that connection and to follow through on other appointments later on because it is an easy thing to get to, and it’s a pleasant atmosphere,” Koobatian said.

“Anything that we can do to reduce stress will help with the patient’s overall health.”