Hospital gets a patron saint

After several weeks of mystery, St. Agnes Medical Center revealed the name of its "Broad Street buddy" during a press event yesterday at the hospital.

St. Agnes is teaming with Comcast-Spectacor to create a new surgical center at the hospital’s Broad and McKean streets location. It will be called Comcast-Spectacor Surgical Services.

For the naming rights, the company will donate $500,000 to the hospital during the next two years. That money will fund the expansion and renovation of St. Agnes’ same-day and in-patient surgery units, said hospital president Sister Marge Sullivan.

Construction on the center began in April, Sullivan said, and should be completed by late October or early November. The hospital began soliciting financial backing to fund needed renovations and facility upgrades more than a year ago, she said.

"Capital is in short supply everywhere, so we thought maybe we needed to look to our community."

Councilman Frank DiCicco and Council President Anna Verna initiated meetings between the Broad Street-based organizations and helped pitch the proposal to Comcast-Spectacor.

Fred Shabel, vice-chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, said St. Agnes’ South Philly location and its service to thousands of local residents made this partnership attractive.

"It is a matter of giving back to a community that has been good to you," he said.

Sullivan is confident this is the start of a long-term relationship between the two organizations.

"Clearly they are a strong player in the South Philadelphia community," she said. "We see ourselves as a strong player in the South Philadelphia community, here for the long haul, here to stay. We see Comcast in that same position."

The Comcast-Spectacor Surgical Services center will include an entirely new same-day surgery and short-procedure unit that will be almost four times larger than the existing facility. The in-patient surgery unit will undergo renovations to the waiting rooms and patient prep room, and more space will be created where physicians can speak confidentially with families.

None of this will require additions to the existing building, Sullivan said; it is a matter of using existing space more efficiently.

The partnership will present the hospital with new marketing opportunities as well, such as celebrity and athlete appearances and special ticket offers for events at the First Union Center and Spectrum.

"This is a contribution to help them build this floor," Shabel said, "and our hope is to stay in touch and who knows what comes along we might get involved with."

Comcast-Spectacor’s headquarters are in the First Union Center. The sports and entertainment firm owns the First Union Center and First Union Spectrum, as well as the Flyers, Sixers and Phantoms franchises, the Flyers Skate Zone, television network Comcast SportsNet and three minor-league baseball teams in Maryland.

Company chairman Ed Snider started the corporation 36 years ago and has always emphasized giving back to the community, Shabel said. Comcast-Spectacor Foundation, the company’s charitable division, is involved in many projects throughout Philadelphia, among them awarding financial aid to students at St. John Neumann and St. Maria Goretti high schools.

This is not the foundation’s first foray into the healthcare field. It also supported cancer research at Hahnemann University Hospital, Shabel said, and funded the creation of a bone-marrow transplant center there. Comcast-Spectacor also has done charitable work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

St. Agnes Medical Center is a 153-bed hospital founded in 1888 by the Sisters of St. Francis. Today it is a member of the Mercy Health System and Catholic Health East, one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems. The hospital is best known for treating burn victims in its Center for Advanced Burn & Wound Care.

Sister Sullivan stressed that the hospital will continue to accept patients into its surgery center while construction is taking place on the new surgical facility.

"This is a symphony in terms of orchestrating all the various pieces to make sure we have all the appropriate barriers, in terms of infection control and all of the soundproof barriers," she said. "All of that has been orchestrated very carefully."