The Healing of A Hospital
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tammy G. Love
Director of Marketing & Medical Staff Development
Phone: (336) 651-8116
The Healing of A Hospital
By JERRY LANKFORD
Wilkes Regional Medical Center has become a study of progress. In the past two years, various new healthcare systems, equipment and expansions have helped restore the community’s confidence in the hospital.
All this has been done while digging out from a $1.45 million operating deficit two years ago to what is a $420,000 surplus in the first nine months of 2005.
WRMC CEO and President Ted Chapin said regaining the community’s confidence in the facility tops the list of accomplishments he has seen since he took the helm of the hospital, which is owned by the Town of North Wilkesboro, in October 2003.
Hospital staffers went to various area doctors' offices and asked where there is room for improvements at the facility. Chapin said doctors were "very forthcoming and candid" with suggestions identifying a number of areas where we needed to focus our quality improvement efforts.
Through these efforts during the last year, doctors have said they have seen significant positive changes at WRMC.
"This year 69 percent of our physicians said they would definitely recommend Wilkes Regional Medical Center to family or friends" Chapin said. That number was 34 percent in 2004.
"We’ve doubled the percentage of physicians who say they are very satisfied with our quality of service, quality of medical care and clinical knowledge over 2004," Chapin added. Coming from doctors, that praise means a lot, he said.
"We’ve put a lot of focus on improving quality," Chapin said. "The (hospital) board has given us the resources to do that. It requires significant investment of time and money to make improvements so we can provide the best possible care available..And the board listens to doctors’ concerns, said Chairman Bert Hall.
"The board has gotten the doctors more involved in making decisions,” Hall said. “The board also asks the doctors what they think," Chapin said, adding, "I'm really proud of the relationship we have with our doctors. That’s something the board has really helped us with."
The ultimate goal has been to keep patients from "going down the road" to other, competing healthcare facilities.
There have been numerous changes made at the hospital in the past two years which has helped with this switch in mindset.
Chapin said in that time WRMC has:
- Received full accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations "with one of our best reviews ever, demonstrating quality of care and patient safety," Chapin said, adding that the accreditation review is conducted every three years. The Joint Commission is the one national organization entrusted to evaluate the quality of care in our nation’s hospitals.
- Made improvements in clinical programs including inpatient acute dialysis and the addition of in-hospital physicians for weekends. These physicians (who have been at WRMC for about a year and which are called hospitalists$#41; act as admitting doctors and allow on-call physicians a chance to take a break. "The doctors and the emergency department staff are pleased with how this has worked" Chapin said.
- Opened a new $4 million labor and delivery unit. "Both the staff and the patients love it,"Chapin added.
- Received approval to add five additional dialysis seats (that will bring the total to 16)seats. WRMC has also seen "transient" dialysis patients (who plan their vacations and trips around areas that offer facilities which can meet their needs). "This goes along with Wilkes trying to attract more tourists," Chapin said.
- Began planning for a $4.5 million outpatient pre-surgery and imaging center.
- Added "fast track" treatment in the emergency department for non-emergency patients.
- Invested $1 million to replace patient monitoring equipment.
- Invested $1 million for digital imaging in the radiology department. (Chapin said this would eventually save money on film, processing and storage. He added that the added technology would allow the hospital to e-mail X-rays and other images to other offices or more quickly access them at the hospital.)
- Has recruited four new physicians, including a general surgeon, OB/GYN, ENT and an internist. "Recruitment has been a big focus for the hospital,"Chapin said.
- Preserved Medicare funding through Medicare quality improvement programs.
- Shown improvement in patient satisfaction scores. "I tell folks to treat people like they are family," Chapin said.
- Increased daily inpatient count by 16 percent, "meaning more people are choosing to get treatment here rather than at other facilities," Chapin said.
- Posted a 20 percent increase in emergency department visits compared to 2003.
- Seen an increase of 10 percent (compared to 2003) in outpatient surgeries and other outpatient services.
WRMC’s management agreement and partnership with Forsyth Medical Center has played an important role in the facilities transformation, Chapin said. This affiliation allows better purchasing power along with access to professional staff development, clinical improvement resources, operational and management expertise and access to a comprehensive on-line medical library for the hospital’s new website (wilkesregional.com). Chapin stresses that WRMC is the community’s hospital. He tries to instill this in his management team.
"I encourage them to become more involved in the community," Chapin said, adding numerous staff members are involved in various civic organizations and leadership groups. "This gives us a chance to give something back to the community and also tell about what we’re doing here."