Registered nurses, Jeffrey Braswell, left, and Crickette Young look over patient's X-rays in the I.C.U. at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. (Outlook 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. — While the future of Phoebe North is beginning to take shape, improvements are also being made to Phoebe facilities outside of Albany in 2013.
In the meantime, officials are reflecting on the first year of operations at the new Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus.
“We have had a really good year; we have had a 20 percent growth in volume from the year prior,” said Tim Trottier, senior vice president of regional operations for Phoebe Putney Health System. “Our emergency center development has been strong, where we’ve had a 30 percent jump in patient volume.”
With this growth, and the increase of medical staff personnel, the focus at that campus will be patient satisfaction and reducing the length of stay for a patient in the emergency center, Trottier said.
“We believe that is one of the strongest satisfiers — how quickly they can get out,” he said. “We are doing very well (in those areas).
“If they (the patient) can get to care quicker, the chances of a better outcome are greater.”
Meanwhile, Phoebe Dorminy Medical Center in Fitzgerald is due for an emergency center renovation and expansion, Trottier said.
Construction is slated to begin sometime during this year, although it not clear yet when work will actually begin on the facility or what the costs will be since it has not been put out to bid yet, Trottier said. The plans on the drawing board call for the size of the center to increase by two-and-a-half times, as well as another entrance through the front.
“The only access now is through the ambulance bay,” Trottier said. “We will create another access in the front while ambulances come in from the side.
“This will separate the trauma away from the non-trauma patients.”
In terms of physician recruitment, there was a second general surgeon to come on board at the Fitzgerald facility earlier this month, Trottier said.
“This is the first time there has been more than one general surgeon in that community in years,” he said.
There have also been recruitment efforts ongoing throughout the system in various specialties, and even subspecialties, that have traditionally not had a strong presence in Southwest Georgia — including a cardiologist for the Fitzgerald and Cordele area.
“We have one individual with a focus on more rural areas (for a higher level of care),” Trottier said. “Because of that depth, we can bring in a higher quality of care.”
There has also since been a stronger orthopaedics presence established in Cordele, as well as oncology in Fitzgerald, Moultrie and Cordele, the regional director added.
“We are going to build on that more this year, Trottier said. “We have even added a hand surgeon. We have not had that level of subspecialty care before.
“Oncology is ramping up, and urology is an area we are moving toward aggressively.”
At the same time, sports medicine care has taken a more regional approach — as officials have sought to expand the number of certified athletic trainers so there are more people on the sidelines to protect the area’s student athletes, Trottier said.
Plans are also in the works in the coming months regarding the future of Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert in conjunction with the Hospital Authority of Randolph County to ensure it is better capable of meeting patient needs.
“They have charged us to present ways to give the hospital a facelift while continuing to be fiscally responsible and focus on a high quality of patient care,” Trottier said. “Operationally, they are on very solid ground as a direct result of the leadership of that authority board.”
Most of this development throughout the region, officials say, stems from the idea of keeping residents of Southwest Georgia closer to home when they are receiving medical care.
“Philosophically, our approach to the region is to do everything we can to keep local health care local,” Trottier said. “We want to earn that patient’s choice.
“As our health system grows and does an even better job of earning a patient’s choice of coming to Albany, that (is) not only good for the patient, but good for the community overall as a mechanism to drive jobs and economic development for Albany and Dougherty County.”
As far as operations in Albany are concerned, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital is constantly renovating its accommodations — but beyond that — there are no big projects planned for that campus in the immediate future, officials say.
Rather, the focus will be the retrofit of Phoebe North into a women’s and children’s center, as well as making rearrangements to the intensive care units at the main campus.
“Some of those beds are in older parts of the hospital, so (we are looking to) consolidate in a space that is more modern,” said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick.
In terms of programs and services, officials at Phoebe’s main campus are working to build on its existing electronic medical records system to more effectively connect doctors and other hospitals with vital patient information as part of a meaningful use mandate set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“It continues to grow and expand,” Wernick said. “Thirty percent of our budget is going into information systems for the foreseeable future.”
Phoebe is also running the hospitalist programs for Coffee Regional Medical Center in Douglas and Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie. There, the focus will be building on improvements at both centers in terms of patient satisfaction and length of stay, Trottier said.
On the vein of corporate health, the health system is maintaining a “Wellness Works” program that was started less than a year ago. Offering services ranging from injury prevention training to pre-employment screenings, the program has approximately 19,000 people enrolled in it, officials say.
“It puts the resources in place to do a better job of coordinating care between employees and the community we serve,” Trottier said.
The program currently allows for annual screening benefits clear of deductibles, for times to be blocked out for employee health screenings and traces the employee to ensure they are guided through the follow up process.
The goal this year, with enrollment now growing, is to build on opportunities for programs and health fairs with the region’s employers, Trottier said.