Bridgton Hospital will soon start a $400,000 renovation of its too-small waiting room, after a patient with a bad experience called to complain and offered to pay $300,000 toward a fix.

“It was a wonderful gift, quite honestly, by a wonderful friend of the organization,” hospital President David Frum said. “It was a significant impact for us and we were very humbled by the generosity.”

Hospital leaders say the 16-seat waiting area has been cramped almost from the moment the hospital opened in 2002. During peak times in the summer, the area becomes so crowded that some patients have to wait outside. And even during off-peak times, users of bulky electric wheelchairs have complained they don’t have enough space to wait without feeling in the way. 

Hospital leaders were talking about renovating the waiting room about a year and a half ago when a regular patient contacted them to talk about the problems she’d had waiting for care. 

She offered to contribute $300,000 over three years to renovate the space.

Hospital leaders declined to release her name because she asked to remain anonymous.

“It’s truly wonderful community rooted in the fact one of our community members made it a key initiative for herself and it’s going to benefit the whole community,” Frum said. “We’re still smiling.”

The renovation will add 473 square feet to the waiting room and more than double the number of seats. It will provide alcoves that wheelchair users can back into, as well as outlets for electric wheelchairs to charge. 

The new waiting area will also feature more natural light, more comfortable seating and a garden at the entry. 

“If you were to walk into our waiting room right now, it looks like a subway station. I hate to say that. We tried to spruce it up some years ago, and the colors are unfortunately kind of drab, the seats are plastic,” said John Ludwig, vice president of operations. “What you’re going to find when you come into the new waiting room is an environment that’s soothing. It’s light, it’s bright.”

Construction will start Feb. 15 and is expected to finish in mid-May.

The emergency room will remain open during construction. Although patients will be able to use the current waiting room until the last three weeks of construction, they must enter a different way. Signs will direct patients where to go. During the the final three weeks of construction, patients will wait in the main lobby.

Hospital officials estimate the project will cost about $400,000. Most of that will be paid by the anonymous benefactor. Another $45,000 was raised through the hospital’s annual golf tournament last fall.

The remainder will be paid through other general donations to the hospital.

Bridgton Hospital is part of Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston.

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