A proposed special care unit at Van Diest Medical Center may soon become a reality after the board of trustees approved agreed to move ahead with the proposal Tuesday night in regular session.
The proposal developed out of concerns voiced by several physicians at the November meeting. The medical staff held a work session earlier this month and Michelle Stapp, emergency department manager, and Alice Heinrichs, chief financial officer, gave a presentation to the physicians on what it would take to equip and staff a special care unit. Stapp and Heinrichs also gave a similar presentation to the trustees.
Stapp explained that she looked at using one room which would be a dedicated area with specialized equipment and personnel to handle critically ill or injured patients.
"That's a pretty broad definition," Stapp said. She added that at VDMC, the program would involve more ill patients than those who were injured.
She said the hospital had operated an SCU at the old hospital until September 2008. It was then closed due to low census, staffing difficulties and training issues. She explained that nursing staff would require a higher level of training and would likely be cross-trained to work in the emergency department and cardiac rehab.
Stapp suggested that four full-time and two part-time nurses would be needed to staff the unit which would benefit the hospital as they would be cross-trained for the other departments.
"So, I guess one question was why don't we just transfer all of these patients who need this level of care," she said. "There are patients who warrant increased monitoring or IV medications, who are probably not candidates for surgical intervention. They are patients who have the potential for deteriorating but really their current condition does not require that they be transferred."
"And also, think about the storm that's coming in. What if we do have a severely ill patient come in during the middle of a blizzard and we can't transfer them. We need a contingency plan," she said.
Stapp gave a timeline of some of the issues that would need to be handled before such a unit could open. She said current policies would need to be reviewed and rewritten, staff would need to be hired and trained, and the room would need to be equipped and readied.
Heinrichs gave a break down of costs which would include about $290,600 for salaries and benefits for the new staff, supplies and ancillary costs for a total cost of $431,411. She said she plugged in the revenues and came up with a potential net revenue of $496,115.
"But that's a big guess right now,"?she said.
Chief of Staff Dr. Mark Andrew said that several of the physicians agreed there would no trouble keeping the SCU?open and used. He said the medical staff unanimously recommended pursuing the special care unit.
Interim administrator Bob Mason said he agreed with the recommendation. The board voted to move ahead on the special care unit, with Trustee Steve Mourlam voting against the motion.
Also included in the motion was the directive to investigate the cost and staffing benefits of using hospital-employed physicians or physician assistants to staff the emergency department. Currently, the ED is staffed by contract physicians and PAs.
As part of the capital equipment requests, the board approved purchasing a new MRI? to replace the MRI?rental that VDMC utilizes. The new MRI?would be installed within the hospital, and was budgeted as part of the new hospital building funds. The cost of the unit was $1.25 million with installation and other equipment adding $283,000 to the cost. Hospital officials said the number of MRIs at the hospital had been on the rise over the past year.
Longtime administrative assistant to the administrator Linda Keigan sent a letter to the board of trustees stating her intention to retire. She had worked for Hamilton Hospital for 25 years.
Board Chairman Carroll Ose said Keigan was "fiercely loyal to the hospital. She will be missed."