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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

HOSPITAL CEO STEVE Ruwoldt, above left, was joined by members of the hospital’s board (including, Dr. Louis Rodrigues, above, center, and former Board Chair Joyce Salimeno, above right). and the community as the renovated Critical Care Unit was renamed in honor of the late Irving Shapiro.

Remembering a

'guiding light'

By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS — May 16, 2008 — His is a name that will forever be linked with Catskill Regional Medical Center.
And now it’s official.
Irving Shapiro’s name was added last weekend to the sign above the door to the Critical Care Unit (CCU) at the hospital in Harris, the hospital he helped build as a member of the original board of Community General Hospital (CGH).
The owner of Sullivan’s Department Store in Liberty, Shapiro was a member of the board at Liberty’s Maimonides Hospital before CGH began to take shape just off Route 17 in Harris.
Joyce Salimeno remembers Shapiro ordering the signboard proclaiming the site the future home of the community’s new hospital.
Saturday, she stood up to remember a man she shared a table with many times in the hospital board room, paraphrasing a speech by Selma Field when the hospital’s auxiliary honored Shapiro in 1999.
Field then called to mind Shapiro’s “ability to see the difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones.
“He was a daring dreamer of the ’60s, a bold builder of the ’70s and ’80s,” Salimeno read.
Apt, considering Shapiro’s name was added alongside his late wife Florence on the CCU sign in celebration of the unit’s first renovation since it was built in 1977.
Coming off the heels of a financial crisis, CRMC Board President Gerry Skoda said the board followed new CEO Steve Ruwoldt’s suggestion that continuing to build was the only way to recover.
“He developed a strategy,” Skoda said of the new administrator. “I can say this kind of thing is just the first of what you’re going to be seeing in the future.”
“We want to go through and modernize this entire facility,” Ruwoldt explained. “It’s helping us provide state-of-the-art care for our patients and for Sullivan County.”
Priced around the $150,000 mark, the project included installation of new flooring and beds, a new nurses station and new cabinetry that now allows for the carts that once littered the hallways to be slipped neatly into recesses in the walls.
Located on the fifth floor of the Harris facility, the CCU features just 10 beds, allowing for medical staff to concentrate an intensive amount of care on their patients. Averaging a usage rate of around 70 percent, Ruwoldt said it’s a part of the hospital that’s always in use.
That’s one of the reasons it was first on the list for renovation after the maternity ward refurbishment was completed last year.
Funding came from a variety of places – including a substantial $75,000 allotment from the WSUL/WVOS Heart-a-thon to purchase new cardiac monitors for every single bed in the unit.
The Catskill Regional Medical Center Auxiliary pitched in with a $12,000 donation, enough to pay for a brand new nurses station centrally located on the unit to create better efficiencies for the medical staff.
“We usually buy equipment, so we were a little hesitant at first,” said Auxiliary President Ellen Cutler.
But auxiliary member Eve Korzelius, a unit secretary on CCU for the past 31 years, asked the auxiliarians to just come take a look. They climbed onto the elevator and trooped up to the fifth floor.
“When we came up to see the unit, we saw how much it was in need,” Cutler said.
They took a vote and made their pledge.
With another $10,000 from the hospital foundation, the project came together in a matter of months – begun last fall and finished with Saturday’s dedication.
It was a tearful ceremony for Shapiro’s widow, Dorothy, who set a picture of her late husband watching the construction project on the podium before the festivities began. But it was just right, she said.
“From the first date with him, he was telling me about the hospital,” she said, a smile emerging through her tears. “He was the kind of person who cared about everything.
“He felt really good about working with this hospital,” she continued. “He really felt he was doing something.”
A chairman of the board from 1971 through 1975, Shapiro remained on the board up until 2001, and Dorothy remembers hearing all the news when he came home from a meeting, still keyed up.
She complimented the new board for bringing the hospital through dark days.
“You’ve come a long way,” she said.
In remembering a man whose picture graces the wall of the second floor board room with a plaque thanking him for “determined leadership,” Skoda said he hopes the community can see a commitment to healthcare in Sullivan County.
“They should realize we’re maintaining a facility you can’t do without in a rural community,” he noted. “It ranks with schools and government services that are important in a community.
“We’re here when emergencies happen,” Skoda said. “We are going to take care of people when they need it.”

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