Columbia Memorial Hospital 1910

Columbia Memorial History


Columbia Memorial celebrates its 120th year in 2009.



Hudson City Hospital was incorporated in 1889, but it was not until 1893 that the hospital opened with six beds, a fracture table, and ten physicians on staff. The hospital, run by a nurse who was a graduate of Bellevue Hospital in New York City, was treating approximately 75 patients a year by 1896.


The hospital moved to its present site between Prospect and Columbia Streets and had a capacity of 108 beds. A School of Nursing was also established to supply nurses for the growing hospital. Between 1910 and 1920, the hospital was expanded to incorporate a kitchen, dining room, modern x-ray equipment, and an electric elevator.


Columbia Memorial Hospital 1949

1920 -1950
Between 1920 and 1950, additional space was annexed to the hospital.  The Cavell House on campus was expanded to accommodate the School of Nursing dormitory.  During the 1940s, a new building was designed to accommodate an additional 45 beds for a total capacity of 153 beds. 


The name was changed to Columbia Memorial Hospital to reflect services to the entire Columbia County area. Because of material shortages caused by the Korean War, the new facility, referred to as the Memorial Wing, was not opened until 1953.


The hospital expanded to 186 beds by the early 1970s with approximately 7,000 discharges per year and 700 births. A $5.5 million dollar project was undertaken to eliminate the need for the original 1900 building. Two new parking lots were added.  Operating rooms and patient rooms were renovated to accommodate piped in oxygen, suction, and compressed air. No renovation or new building would be undertaken for the next 25 years. By 1980, admissions had dropped to 6,000 per year and patient days had decreased because of a shortened length of stay.


In the late 1980s, facilitated by the State Department of Health, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Greene County Community Hospital merged into a single institution, called Columbia-Greene Medical Center. However, the expense of providing care at two inpatient sites within ten miles of each other proved highly inefficient. A decision to move the merged entity onto one site was made. The facility in Greene County was closed and operations were phased onto the Hudson campus.


The mid-1990s brought significant change, including a new administration and name change.In 1995, the Board of Trustees of the hospital voted to change the name of the hospital back to Columbia Memorial Hospital. The focus was to de-emphasize the hospital as a medical center and return to a community hospital which offers the personalized care not prevalent in large medical centers.


The hospital began a complete re-engineering of both the facility and the processes to ensure quality care. New physicians were recruited, principally in the field of primary care and satellite primary care centers were opened at strategic geographic locations throughout Columbia and Greene Counties. A major investment in technically advanced equipment was made resulting in a completely updated radiology department, including a state-of-the-art CT scanner, a SPECT unit in nuclear medicine, new mammography equipment, and new diagnostic and fluoroscopy equipment. The telemetry capacity was more than doubled to expand the hospital’s capacity to care for cardiac patients and alleviate delays in the emergency department. New monitoring equipment was installed in the operating rooms and post anesthesia recovery unit and an updated surgical instrumentation program was undertaken.


A Master Facility Plan was prepared by Donald Blair who specializes in hospital architecture. This project analyzed the entire campus and all buildings. Options ranging from minimal renovation to building a complete new hospital were considered. A determination made by financial consultants indicated a total debt carrying capacity of approximately $15 million. Fortunately. the hospital had minimal long term debt already on the books, and it was decided that a project in the range of $10 million could be undertaken.


On a local level, the hospital reached out to the community and participated with other organizations to bring more people into contact with the hospital. A Community Health Service Department was created to improve access to services and eliminate duplication throughout the two counties.


Through 1996 the hospital invested  $200,000 annually in surgical instrumentation to accommodate advancing techniques in surgery. 
Another $2.2 million was invested in updating radiology equipment.


1996 -1997
Hudson Family Care Center opens to provide primary care services to the local Hudson population. The Family Birthplace is established as the newest and most contemporary regional birthing center on the second floor of the hospital. Broadway Family Care Center opens in Red Hook. The hospital has added a diabetic education program, minimally invasive surgeons, pain management specialists, vascular surgeons, a dermatologist, a rheumatologist, and a gynecologist specializing in urinary incontinence.


Cavell Cancer Project begins. Palatine Family Care Center in Germantown and Cairo Family Care Centers open.


The Kellner Wing opens through the generosity of Paul and Clara Kellner, housing state-of-the-art Emergency Department and Surgical Services Department. This improved facility would be instrumental in the recruitment of new surgeons and emergency medical physicians over the next decade enabling the hospital to expand the scope of surgical services dramatically. Transfusion Free Medicine and Surgery Program (one of only 130 in the nation) opens.


Columbia Memorial Hospital receives the VISTA Award for The Family Birthplace by the American Society of Health Care Engineers.


Two surgeons are recruited for Hudson Valley Surgical Associates and plans to establish additional family care centers were developed.


In 2002, more than 4,000 surgical cases were performed and 500 babies were delivered. There were 45,400 outpatient visits and 63,650 Family Care Center visits. Ghent Family Care Center opens. Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery and a Pain Management Program is inaugurated. Esophageal manometry program is begun. Columbia Memorial Hospital continues to invest $2-4 million annually in facilities and equipment to accommodate advancing techniques.


Columbia Memorial becomes the first area hospital (including Albany and Poughkeepsie) to provide laparoscopic banding surgery for morbidly obese patients. Other minimally invasive procedures complement the well established transfusion-free program. $1.3 million state-of-the-art angiography suite is established to be used by interventional radiologists from Vascular Institute at Albany Medical Center, who declare it best facility in the entire region.


New Patient Information System software in Emergency Department streamlines patient care, creating a paperless department. System also produces reports which identify trends and will be valuable in case of bioterrorist activity.


2003 - 2005
“A” wing (1970s) fourth floor is renovated and expanded contemporary restrooms are installed in hospital lobby. Renovation of the Memorial fourth floor wing is completed, creating a Hospice Unit courtesy of the T. Backer Fund. Renovation of the Radiology Department is completed.


Columbia Memorial focuses on developing Vascular Surgery services and recruiting OB/GYN physicians and continues to focus on developing a plan to consolidate local hospital-based practices into one efficient unit, establishing convenient outpatient services on campus. The result will be the Medical Office Building with a parking garage to facilitate patient access and convenience, and increase physician convenience.


As the hospital of choice for the region’s patients, Columbia Memorial Hospital continues its growth to stay abreast of patient needs. We introduce new safety and pain relief protocols and add advanced, medical imaging equipment to the new Medical Office Building. New physicians continue to provide expanded expertise to the medical staff.


The Dyson Foundation, Dr. Stephen and Suzanne Menkes, and the Second Show award the hospital monies for the construction of a Child Advocacy Center, which will provide space for assisting child victims of abuse. The child friendly rooms are designed to alleviate trauma and expedite the healing process.
Columbia Memorial Hospital joins other U.S. hospitals in adopting benchmarks to ensure patient safety and prevent complications. 
Supported by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the hospital’s goal is to continuously improve patient safety.
A new gastroenterologist is hired who brings a special interest in weight control and has worked with morbidly obese patients to reduce weight using measures less drastic than bariatric surgery. An endocrinologist with a special interest in diabetes, a new orthopedic surgeon, and a new OB/GYN join the staff. A new neurologist begins neurology consultations here with the goal of starting a stroke center.


The hospital reopens the renovated main entrance and new parking garage. Services on site will be more accessible to patients through this entrance which connects the hospital to the new medical office building and parking garage.


Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation Medical Office Building opens, dramatically changing the hospital campus and offering easy access to a wealth of health care services: physician office visits, laboratory testing, and world- class medical imaging diagnostics.


Patients continue to express satisfaction with our new “one stop shopping” diagnostic center located on the lower level.  The convenience of having laboratory studies and a variety of medical imaging studies done within one suite of offices engenders positive response.The level of medical technology available on our campus is unrivaled anywhere in the capital region. Digital mammography becomes available. Superior to regular film mammography, Columbia Memorial was one of the first, and is still among the very few facilities in northeastern New York, offering this state-of-the-art technology.


New Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) readily accepted by patients with claustrophobia, who find the short, wide unit much more comfortable than the older, tunnel-like models.


All medical imaging equipment utilizes digital systems and thanks to the generosity of Marlene Brody, a Picture Archiving System is implemented. This scanner is unbelievably fast, providing images of superior quality. This new unit can also visualize your coronary arteries to detect early cardiac disease without undergoing catheterization.


The Abram S. & Helen C. Kittle Lobby is dedicated – a complete renovation of the entry to the hospital.


Inpatient and outpatient volumes increase, demonstrating the increasing support of the Columbia-Greene Community.

Substantial gains are made in our new Bone & Joint Center and in Pain Management. Having these services on campus in our new Medical Office Building makes accessing medical care convenient for patients. Having leaders in their respective medical fields on staff at Columbia Memorial Hospital provides a firm foundation for delivering high quality healthcare. One of those leaders, Dr. A. Ramani, is an expert in infectious diseases, in particular the detection and treatment of  Lyme disease. 


Columbia Memorial Hospital is the first hospital in the Capital District to go trans fat-free in the preparation of food –  a move to provide healthier meals for patients and staff.


Using $1 million dollars of Federal Grant money, renovation of the Intensive Care Unit begins. The new ICU will provide more space for each patient in order to accommodate cutting edge technology at each bedside. In addition each patient will have an individual room to provide for privacy and a healing environment. The focus of the final push of the Capital Campaign Fulfilling the Dream, raises $3 million to make this new ICU and other needed projects a reality.
We close out 2007 with a financial break-even, placing Columbia Memorial in an elite category of hospitals in New York State.


Our $3 million Intensive Care Unit (ICU) expansion and renovation is completed.


A grant of $1,030,000 from the State of New York will be used to connect physician offices and area nursing homes to the hospital electronically, enabling the professional staff to instantly communicate critical patient information between the hospital and the other facilities as needed. This will enhance the quality of care we are able to provide our patients.


Development begins on a system-wide electronic medical record.


We submit an application to become a Designated Stroke Center, already having implemented new stroke protocols and having seen stroke patients make dramatic recoveries utilizing these new treatment protocols.


Dr. V. Richard (Rick) Back retires, having been our Medical Director for the past ten  years.


Dr. Norman Chapin, Chief of Emergency Medicine for the past nine years, becomes Medical Director for our growing health care system.

We greatly expand our Bone and Joint Center services brining on Drs.  DiGiovanni, Gorczynski, and Kaufman to become part of our hospital’s network of primary care and specialty practices.  This transition will be seamless to patients but will enable us to all work together to expand orthopedic services and recruit more experts in the field to our area.


We initiate our Dental Van, which travels to area schools in both Columbia and Greene counties. This initiative is the result of the coordinated efforts of Senator Steve Saland, the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium, and the Greene County Rural Health Network with a goal to improve the dental health of the children in our area.


We continue to make progress and implement new programs and technology at Columbia Memorial and our many facilities.


Patients (almost 34,000) treated in our Emergency Department experience much quicker registration and treatment now than previously. The staff has redesigned the entire process for those patients who need treatment in our Prompt Care area, an area for the treatment of minor injuries and illness. A successful launch of this new approach has been in effect for the past couple of months with promising results. At this time patients are experiencing a ninety- minute turnaround time from arrival to discharge. However, our target is one hour and we’re inching up on that goal.


The gynecologists at our Women’s Health Center are now providing a minimally invasive, total laparoscopic hysterectomy. The advantages, as with most laparoscopic procedures, are shorter hospital stays, minimal pain and discomfort, and much more rapid recovery. With this procedure, most patients go home the day after surgery and feel well enough to resume a normal schedule with the exception of heavy physical labor.


Renovation of the hospital cafeteria begins thanks to the extraordinary generosity once again of the Kellner family, responsible for the major donation to create the new surgery and emergency department wing in 1999. George Kellner has made this gift in honor of his parents, Clara and Paul Kellner.


Design development drawings for obtaining construction bids are being done for an expansion/renovation of our fifth floor psychiatric unit and the sixth floor medical/surgical patient care unit.


Hudson River Bank and Trust Foundation grants us  $20,000 to address obesity in children and adults. We were just notified of an additional $150,000 in grant monies from the Doctors Across New York, a program designed to retain physicians from New York or who trained in New York to practice in the state. We also received $190,000 in federal appropriations grant monies through the offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, targeted for our automated medication administration system. This is an especially important project given the improvements it will bring to patient care.