Courtesy of YNHH

Yale New Haven Hospital’s Winchester Center for Lung Disease opened on Tuesday. The state-of-the-art facility will serve as a comprehensive pulmonary center for lung health.

Construction of the center was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Francine LoRusso, the vice president and executive director for heart and vascular services at Yale New Haven Health, the delay turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” as scientists’ understanding of the transmission of COVID-19 allowed the team to alter the center’s design to ensure better infection control.

“As a result of the lessons we learned from the pandemic, such as the need for negative pressure rooms, we went back and adjusted our architectural drawings” LoRusso said at the center’s ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday. “Those adjustments came at a significant cost, but fortunately [Yale New Haven Hospital’s leadership] gave the go ahead to fully fund the center.”

The center is equipped to treat a wide array of pulmonary conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, adult cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension, bronchiectasis, tuberculosis and post-COVID-19 pulmonary disease, according to the center’s website.

As a part of the Yale New Haven Health North Haven Medical Center, the WCLD will house interventional immunology services, as well as laboratory, endoscopy and radiology services. There will also be Smillow Cancer hospital doctors present at the North Haven center.

Naftali Kaminski, a professor of pulmonary medicine and chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, is one of the over 50 physicians that will treat patients at the new center. The ability to have comprehensive pulmonary care under one roof will allow for increased communication and collaboration among sub-specialties, thus improving patient care, according to Kaminski.

According to President of Yale New Haven Hospital Keith Churchwell and Kaminski, the new center’s clinical space triples that of previous clinics and, as such, will triple access to care for lung patients.

“[The center] reflects [Yale New Haven Health’s] focus on making outpatient care more accessible and more convenient to a wider community,” Churchwell said at the ceremony. “It is part of our strategy to bring in care to the communities where our patients live.”

The center was created in response to large demand for increased access to pulmonary care in the New Haven community. As most pulmonary conditions, such as asthma, are lifelong, the demand for pulmonary care is high.

Churchwell noted that many patients were struggling to get appointments at a smaller YNHH lung clinic. The hope is that the new center will improve patient accessibility though its increased capacity, in addition to its abundance of free parking — something lacking at the downtown location.

According to Kaminski, as treatment options for patients with pulmonary conditions such as cystic fibrosis have increased life expectancies, the demand for pulmonary care is increasing and will continue to do so in the coming years.

“The [center] has an important connection to the pulmonary health of our community,” said Jennifer Possick, the director of the center. “It has evolved over time to meet new challenges.”

Along with a variety of well-known pulmonary conditions that the center will treat, physicians there will also be equipped to care for a novel condition — post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. This condition is characterized by persistent or long-term COVID-19 symptoms, including chest pain, cough and fatigue.

“This year has been tough for all of us,” Kaminski said. “It also has created a new disease, that we didn’t know before — post-acute COVID syndrome. People who have recovered from the disease want to go on with their life, and they have a lot of symptoms.”

The new center will house a COVID-19 recovery program which will address post-COVID-19 symptoms and complications, including changes in memory, cardiac abnormalities, blood clotting disorders and mood changes, according to the program’s website.

Churchwell, along with other physicians at the WCLD, hopes the center will be a regional destination to treat lung disease. The center houses 30 exam, consultation and procedure rooms, in addition to a Level 3 CPAP — a state-of-the-art cardio-pulmonary exercise test to assist doctors in determining the causes of shortness of breath.

The Winchester Center for Lung Disease is located at 6 Divine St.

Erin Bailey | erin.bailey@yale.edu