By Bailey Hosfelt
On the coldest day of this past winter and the first day New York State could administer COVID-19 vaccines to the above 65 population, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital ran into a slight hiccup.
Everybody scheduled to get the vaccine brought someone to accompany them. In some cases, they brought two or even three people along.
With limited space and the need to adhere to social distancing, Burke had to figure out a way to handle the additional influx of people.
“We had a choice: leave this fragile population outside in the cold or figure out a way to maintain CDC guidelines,” said Jeffrey Menkes, President and CEO of Burke.
By snaking everyone through the hospital lobby and down into the building’s corridors, Burke was able to give everyone a place to wait for their vaccine. But, at the same time, other patients seeking care at Burke were coming into the hospital.
“That created a real uncomfortable dilemma,” Menkes said. “We learned the lesson that day that we needed to do something different.”
The new Alice B. Harmon Patient Welcome Center, unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 28, will help Burke do just that.
Located in a garden-like setting on Burke’s storied campus, the Welcome Center will streamline the admissions process — offering a private and dedicated entrance for individuals admitted for inpatient rehabilitation, the majority of whom arrive by ambulance or ambulette.
As soon as an ambulance or ambulette arrives, patients will meet Burke’s admission staff in the Welcome Center’s glass gallery. From there, they will be transferred to their hospital rooms, where they will be greeted by their care team and begin treatment.
The $2.4 million facility was funded through a philanthropic donation from the Marsal Family Foundation, a donation from the Burke Auxiliary and a grant from the federal government through the CARES Act. A.P. Construction completed the Welcome Center.
The Marsal family wanted to give back to Burke after both Bryan and Kathleen Marsal came to the rehabilitation hospital after receiving knee replacement surgeries.
Megan Marsal, daughter of Bryan and Kathleen and Director of the Marsal Family Foundation, said that both benefited greatly from their time at Burke.
“To be able to support a facility, a rehab center like Burke, that helps and changes the lives of so many is an honor,” Megan Marsal said.
The newly unveiled Welcome Center joins the Marsal Caregiver Center, which opened in 2018 to provide a compassionate and healing environment for families and friends dealing with adjustments to the medical conditions of their loved ones.
“The Alice B. Harmon Welcome Center is an extension of [the Marsal family’s] commitment to one’s patient experience at Burke,” John R. McCarthy, Chair of Burke’s Board of Trustees, said.
“The Marsal family is our biggest benefactor at Burke,” Montefiore Medicine’s President and CEO Dr. Philip O. Ozuah said. “That ought to tell you everything that you need to know about the Marsal family and why I’m so honored to call them my friends.
Elected officials in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony echoed how instrumental Burke Rehabilitation Hospital is to family members, friends and the White Plains community, noting the facility’s important connection with Montefiore Health System.
“We know that the care and concern of our people here in Westchester County is being well served by what’s happening here at Burke,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer said.
“The reason Burke can thrive in Westchester is because of the community support,” State Assemblywoman Paulin said.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Senator Shelly Mayer praised the quality of care at Burke in their remarks, sharing anecdotes about loved ones who had received rehabilitation treatment there.
Mayer said she will be forever grateful to the doctors and hospital staff who, in the middle of COVID-19, saved her brother-in-law’s life. Stewart-Cousins noted that a friend was elated to find out that, within a few short days of rehab at Burke, she was able to function at home.
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach highlighted the impressive architectural work of the Welcome Center.
“It conveys clean, new and, at the same time, melding with this very traditional campus,” Roach said.
With a series of major projects completed in the past few months, the Welcome Center will help further enhance the patient experience at Burke.
“The Alice B. Harmon Patient Welcome Center is the culmination of a long-cherished dream,” Menkes said.