Construction on FCH SCU to begin soon

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By Dave Bell

The Fayette County Hospital Board on Monday learned that the state department of public health has approved the plans for the renovation of the hospital’s Special Care Unit, and construction is likely to start within a month.
That project – which will upgrade the facility’s special care unit rooms on the third floor – will expand the size of the rooms and provide more privacy by installing a fixed wall to replace the curtains that now separate  the beds there. Currently, the hospital has four SCU beds, but the renovation will reduce that to two beds with more space and many more modern features.
Two other non-patient rooms on the third floor will be converted to patient rooms, and the nurses’ station will be expanded and upgraded as a part of the construction project, which is expected to take about 60 days.
During the renovations, “patients that have critical issues are just going to have to be transferred out,” said Dr. Brent Schwarm, head of the hospital’s medical staff.
The special care unit provides a level of care between regular rooms and the intensive care unit.
Also at Monday’s board meeting, Dr. Ray Ryan, a surgeon at the hospital, gave the board 120-days notice of his plans to “terminate my relationship with the hospital.” Ryan, who has been at the facility for about five years, said he was “not prepared to share my future plans with you at this point.”
November17 will be his last day, Ryan said.
In other action, hospital CEO Greg Starnes reported that he had been asked to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Specifically, he will give testimony on the impact a part of the new healthcare reform act that requires hospitals to convert to electronic health records.
“Part of my message is to explain what this legislation means to small, rural hospitals,” Starnes said. “It’s quite an honor.”
He was invited to participate in the hearing by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville).
Starnes also told the board that he has been contacted by a group of general surgeons in Effingham who are interested in “having a presence in Vandalia.” He said that they have promised to do surgeries in Vandalia, and would be here at least two days per month.
He said that the surgeons would be applying to the hospital to acquire privileges to practice here.
Starnes noted that the surgical volumes at the hospital are down in recent years.
After several minutes of discussion, the board voted unanimously to spend $48,000 for heating and air-conditioning controllers for the hospital’s third floor. Those controllers would allow for more efficient temperature and humidity control in those rooms. The controller unit itself costs $8,000, and each room requires about $1,500 to be hooked up to the controller.
In addition to two special care unit rooms, the third floor also includes rooms for physical therapy, the sleep study program, activity rooms and offices.
Rick Gottman, director of facilities services, said he thought that purchasing the controllers was a good idea. “Our efficiency will be greatly increased. If we do this, it would complete the whole third floor. The east-west wing is already converted,” he said. “Most hospitals are converting to this.
In Starnes’ report, he noted that hospital admissions for June were down about 16 percent, mirroring year-to-date admissions (which are down 17.5 percent from budget). Acute patient days were up slightly for the month and essentially on budget year-to-date. Long-term-care days were down 3.8 percent for June, but on budget year-to-date.
Starnes also said noted that he had gotten a bid of $341,400 for a CT scanner. He said that the board of Heartland Health (the hospital’s operator) would be approached to make that purchase as a part of its commitment to provide equipment for the hospital, as specified in the operating agreement.
The board’s financial report indicated that the hospital had a net loss in June of just more than $15,000, but the facility has a year-to-date profit of nearly $400,000. Much of that profit, Starnes said, is due to good expense control by the administration and staff.
Joining the board for his first meeting as a member was Doug Knebel.