Staff Writer

ASHTABULA - - University Hospital Health Systems has pledged $250,000 to Kent State University-Ashtabula's Next Step Campaign for the addition of a new Health and Science building.

Hospital officials presented a check to KSU-Ashtabula, Friday. Laurie Delgado, UHHS Brown Memorial Hospital and UHHS Memorial Hospital of Geneva president, said both hospitals will rely on the Ashtabula campus to provide highly-skilled graduates and other allied health programs in the years ahead.

"This new state-of-the-art building will provide a high-quality, local option for students to pursue their careers and hopefully enter the workforce right here in Ashtabula County, which will have a positive impact on the local economy," she said.

Both University hospitals will benefit long-term from the donation by having a local resource for well-trained nurses and other allied health professionals to meet the continued needs of the hospitals, Delgado said.

"With an anticipated national nursing shortage of 600,000 RNs by 2020, this local asset must be protected," she said. "I'm pleased that both Geneva and Conneaut were able to contribute to such an important endeavor."

Jerry Eighmy, UHHS Brown Memorial Hospital board of trustees chairman, said the investment in the new Health and Sciences building will benefit the entire community by providing professionals to the health care industry in the county.

"UHHS Brown Memorial Hospital, it's employees, physicians and the entire staff are committed to supporting the development of a highly educated and quality work force," he said.

The project is an opportunity to invest in the community and the people of Ashtabula County, said Joe Moroski, county commissioner.

The Health and Science building will feature state-of-the-art laboratories and technologically advanced classrooms, including an auditorium-style classroom. It will be used mainly by nursing, physical therapy assisting and other allied health programs. The building also will be available for the continuing education of emergency medical technicians, CPR classes and training for local hospital and fire department employees, according to KSU-Ashtabula officials.

"By making this investment, we at UHHS Memorial Hospital of Geneva are honored to become a part of that investment (of the new building)," said Craig Parker, UHHS Memorial Hospital of Geneva Board of Directors president. "We look forward to the tremendous assets it will provide to Ashtabula County in the form of highly trained nurses and other medical professionals."

Frank Vaccariello, KSU-Ashtabula director of public relations, said there are several phases to a large fundraising campaign such as this one.

"The phase this check represents is sort of where we ask for big money from foundations," he said.

So far, KSU-Ashtabula has received sizable donations from UHHS, the Ashtabula County Medical Center Foundation, the Robert S. Morrison Foundation, the Ashtabula Foundation, the Geneva Group and various other private donations, Vaccariello said.

Other phases of fundraising include fund balances that good fiscal spending has enabled KSU-Ashtabula to save. Those fund balances include approximately $500,000 a year for the last four years. There are also allocations as high as $800,000 bi-annually, from state appropriations, he said.

The project is projected at about $12 million, but with the rising cost of construction, officials expect it to be more, said Susan Stocker, dean of KSU-Ashtabula.

Stocker said the gift from UHHS represents a continued partnership between the hospitals and KSU-Ashtabula in meeting health care needs in the community.

"UHHS Geneva and Brown serve as clinical sites for our students in nursing and allied health programs and many of our graduates go on to secure employment in those facilities," she said.

Stocker said they are hoping to break ground on the new building by spring of 2007 and begin utilizing it by fall of 2008.

"It's just great to have support from such an outstanding organization as UHHS," said Glen Warner, campaign chairman. "It demonstrates their faith in Kent State and Ashtabula County."

Star Beacon Print Edition: 9/9/2006

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