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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Regional Medical Center to open Brownell emergency care facility

The renovated emergency center will feature two new trauma bays and a central nurse’s station. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
The renovated emergency center will feature two new trauma bays and a central nurse’s station. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

Birch trees adorning the interior halls, large glass windows allowing for plenty of natural light and a large central nurses’ station make the new Brownell Emergency Center at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center (GRMC) nothing like the intimidating emergency rooms of television.

This renovation has been two years in the making. The emergency center, last upgraded in 1983, is the last of a 20-year spate of renovations and is set to open by the end of this month — a week after its Community Open House on Wednesday, Feb. 21. 

According to Jeanette Budding, Interim Director of Communications and Development, the renovation will ensure that safety and privacy are maximized. The center will include two large trauma bays with collapsible walls, replacing the old single bay separated by a simple curtain. 

The entryway into the wing will be also be more protected from the public, leading to a space that is “functional but patient-centered,” according to Budding. 

Budding described the new wing as the “crown jewel” of the renovation series at GRMC. This jewel, however, did not materialize without significant preparation. A group of architects and planners used other emergency centers as examples, creating a full scale 3-D model of the new facility and allowing a complete virtual walk-through of the building.

The many phases of the project involved cooperation with Brownells, the Grinnell firearms manufacturer owned by the Brownell family. The 3-D model, for example, was developed at a Brownells warehouse. More significantly, the renovation was made possible in large part because of a $250,000 contribution by Frank Brownell, a long-time supporter of the GRMC. Brownell, currently the Chairman of the Board at Brownell’s, has also served 12 years on the GRMC’s Board of Directors and has chaired the Finance Committee. 

“We believe corporations across America have a responsibility to communities in which they work and operate,” wrote Pete Brownell, Frank Brownell’s son and current CEO of Brownell’s, in an email to The S&B. “In that spirit, Brownells, Inc. and the Brownell Family Foundation have a long history of supporting causes and organizations that improve the lives of those living in our local communities and beyond.”

Following controversy last semester surrounding contributions by the Brownell family to Grinnell College, it is possible that similar questions could be raised regarding the attachment of the Brownell name to an emergency center. Doris Rindels, Interim CEO at GRMC, though, described how the contribution was really “more about Frank and family” than a large corporate donation, particularly because of Brownell’s personal stake in GRMC.

“I live in Montezuma, and the Brownells live in Montezuma … and I always knew them not because of their business, but because the people [are] in church. It’s a family donation is what it is,” Rindels said. 

According to Rindels, local support is critical for the center. 

“Health care is local, and involves local people,” she said. “Philanthropic support is a huge element here as far as how we make renovations and upgrades.”

This reliance on the local community is underscored by the fact that Brownell’s donation did not even come close to covering the total $2.2 million cost of the renovation. Rather, the GRMC held the large donation in reserve for about 10 years while raising the additional funds.

“We’ve had three capital campaigns to raise [the rest of] the money,” Budding said.

As a nonprofit medical center, the GRMC is able to provide high-quality care because of philanthropic support, and the Brownell Emergency and Trauma Center is far from the only wing bearing the name of a major donor. The center is also home to the Manhatt Family Urgent Care, the Marion A. Jones Patient Care Wing and the Kintzinger Women’s Health Center. A building is named after a donor if a donation is at least $250,000.

The Brownell Emergency and Trauma Center is the culmination of a lot of time, and hospital administrators hope that the updated space is a boon to patients and employees alike. Hopefully it will not be a place you have to visit often, but it is good to know that if an emergency does occur, the GRMC will be ready for anyone and everyone in our community.

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