A Hospital’s History

When Sharon Hospital was founded in 1909, it was an eight-bed, two-nurse hospital in a rented house on Caulkinstown Road. In its first year, it served 88 patients. By the spring of 1916, thanks to the public-spirited generosity of the community that raised the funds for a building, a 16-bed hospital was officially opened.

The following day Dr. Jerome S. Chaffee, a surgical veteran of the Spanish-American War who was the moving force behind the founding of the hospital, performed an appendectomy in its new emergency room.

Over the years, the hospital underwent more expansion. In a 1969 Lakeville Journal article commemorating Sharon Hospital’s 60th anniversary, its history was described as “written by thousands of dedicated people who founded it, planned its development, staffed its facilities, financed expansion programs and, in many cases, became thankful patients. The article further noted: “A special feeling permeates the whole institution. Letters from appreciative patients and relatives emphasize the fine quality of patient care and the friendly, helpful spirit of everyone involved.”

While Dr. Chaffee is credited with starting Sharon Hospital, the success of the hospital as a cherished community institution that has provided acclaimed care for patients for all these decades is also due to the support from the people in our community. From the beginning, two years after the first patient was treated, a woman’s auxiliary was started, with 40 charter members who made bed linens, provided free meals for special occasions and pinch hit for staff when there was a shortage. The dream of Dr. Chaffee was realized in his lifetime. He died in 1947, and the hospital has grown and been supported decade after decade by an appreciative community. However, in the last two decades, it has changed hands more than once. In 2002 it became the first for-profit hospital in the state. In a 2016 takeover, it again became a nonprofit. Then in 2019, a merger folded seven hospitals, including Sharon Hospital, into Nuvance Health.

Last week, Northwell Health, the largest nonsectarian, nonprofit health care operation in the United States and the largest health care provider in New York state, announced that Nuvance and Northwell would combine. (See Nuvance hospital system to merge with Northwell Health). Pending state and federal approval, Sharon Hospital will join with Northwell, marking yet another significant milestone in the history of our rural hospital.

We can only hope that the leadership at the top of Northwell will preserve what the people of our community have built and supported and fought for over the past century, including the recent citizen campaign to retain labor and delivery services. In that engagement, the people of the state of Connecticut, represented by the Office of Health Strategy (OHS) and its Executive Director Deirdre Gifford, decided the outcome of a hospital request to terminate those services. The decision was not made by a large health care corporation.

In making the announcement last week, Northwell vowed to make significant investments in Nuvance. It would seem the timing is right. On Feb. 20, a little over a week before Northwell’s announcement and citing three principal factors, Nuvance appealed to OHS to reconsider its Final Decision to deny its request to close labor and delivery. “Good cause exists for addressing the degrading conditions for operation of the L&D service in an orderly fashion…before the Hospital experiences unavoidable service suspensions or safety issues,” Nuvance wrote.

Studies by the American Hospital Association point to hospital acquisitions as a way for hospitals to succeed in reducing costs and improving quality of care. Certainly the trend to hospital mergers is evident, affording scale and more standardization of care. Last year, Sharon Hospital was awarded its fourth consecutive 5-Star rating by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, based on patient experience and timely and effective care, among others. We imagine that Dr. Chaffee would be proud.

Latest News

The artistic life of Joelle Sander

"Flowers" by the late artist and writer Joelle Sander.

Cornwall Library

The Cornwall Library unveiled its latest art exhibition, “Live It Up!,” showcasing the work of the late West Cornwall resident Joelle Sander on Saturday, April 13. The twenty works on canvas on display were curated in partnership with the library with the help of her son, Jason Sander, from the collection of paintings she left behind to him. Clearly enamored with nature in all its seasons, Sander, who split time between her home in New York City and her country house in Litchfield County, took inspiration from the distinctive white bark trunks of the area’s many birch trees, the swirling snow of Connecticut’s wintery woods, and even the scenic view of the Audubon in Sharon. The sole painting to depict fauna is a melancholy near-abstract outline of a cow, rootless in a miasma haze of plum and Persian blue paint. Her most prominently displayed painting, “Flowers,” effectively builds up layers of paint so that her flurry of petals takes on a three-dimensional texture in their rough application, reminiscent of another Cornwall artist, Don Bracken.

Keep ReadingShow less
A Seder to savor in Sheffield

Rabbi Zach Fredman

Zivar Amrami

On April 23, Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield will host “Feast of Mystics,” a Passover Seder that promises to provide ecstasy for the senses.

“’The Feast of Mystics’ was a title we used for events back when I was running The New Shul,” said Rabbi Zach Fredman of his time at the independent creative community in the West Village in New York City.

Keep ReadingShow less
Art scholarship now honors HVRHS teacher Warren Prindle

Warren Prindle

Patrick L. Sullivan

Legendary American artist Jasper Johns, perhaps best known for his encaustic depictions of the U.S. flag, formed the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 1963, operating the volunteer-run foundation in his New York City artist studio with the help of his co-founder, the late American composer and music theorist John Cage. Although Johns stepped down from his chair position in 2015, today the Foundation for Community Arts continues its pledge to sponsor emerging artists, with one of its exemplary honors being an $80 thousand dollar scholarship given to a graduating senior from Housatonic Valley Regional High School who is continuing his or her visual arts education on a college level. The award, first established in 2004, is distributed in annual amounts of $20,000 for four years of university education.

In 2024, the Contemporary Visual Arts Scholarship was renamed the Warren Prindle Arts Scholarship. A longtime art educator and mentor to young artists at HVRHS, Prindle announced that he will be retiring from teaching at the end of the 2023-24 school year. Recently in 2022, Prindle helped establish the school’s new Kearcher-Monsell Gallery in the library and recruited a team of student interns to help curate and exhibit shows of both student and community-based professional artists. One of Kearcher-Monsell’s early exhibitions featured the work of Theda Galvin, who was later announced as the 2023 winner of the foundation’s $80,000 scholarship. Prindle has also championed the continuation of the annual Blue and Gold juried student art show, which invites the public to both view and purchase student work in multiple mediums, including painting, photography, and sculpture.

Keep ReadingShow less