Cape Cod Hospital, a magnet for summer emergency visits, also draws big donors

Brett DeMayo said he waited more than 90 minutes one recent morning to see a doctor at Cape Cod Hospital.
Brett DeMayo said he waited more than 90 minutes one recent morning to see a doctor at Cape Cod Hospital.Julia Cumes for the Boston Globe

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Six years after dire financial straits had Cape Cod Hospital looking for a buyer, the community hospital is back on its feet – treating a huge influx of patients in the emergency room during the summer and expanding thanks to well-heeled donors who want reliable health care on their side of the Sagamore Bridge.

Some 330 people visit the Hyannis emergency department daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the Cape’s population nearly triples and the hospital becomes the default destination for anyone who gets sick. The volume the emergency room sees during the summer represents a 40 percent increase over the off-season.

“We just don’t have enough beds. In the summertime we’re really stressed,’’ said Dr. Craig Cornwall, chief of the emergency department.

The hospital has launched a $20 million expansion to double the available bed space in the emergency department by 2015. The effort comes on the heels of successful fund-raising campaigns by the hospital and its umbrella organization, Cape Cod Healthcare.

The system is on track to raise up to as much as $22 million this year, nearly twice its $12 million goal. Last year, it completed a $100 million campaign.

The recent gifts come from a deep vein of people with ties to the Cape. They include former Blue Cross of California chief executive Leonard D. Schaeffer and his wife, who gave $1 million and the Yawkey Foundation, started by the former Red Sox-owning family. Last month, the foundation committed $3 million to the new emergency rooms at Cape Cod Hospital and its sister hospital in Falmouth.

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