Medical community continued to expand services, facilities in 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

As the community grows, local health care providers make tireless efforts to expand with the region by offering the latest in medical care and technology. Recently, OBGYN Specialists moved to a new location to supply such resources and acquired a new name: Women First. Immediate Healthcare plans to open a new, additional facility in Perryville early this year. Both Saint Francis Medical Center and Southeast Missouri Hospital have recently completed expansions, and have many new additions and developments on the horizon to surface in 2008.

Immediate Healthcare will open its new Perryville facility in March, after beginning construction during the summer of 2007. Owner Robb Hicks, M.D., says Perryville is medically underserved and they wanted to bring their high quality health care to the area.

The facility will offer the same care as the existing Cape office, being open seven days a week with evening hours and will employ local workers.

"We are happy to serve the people of Perry County," Hicks said.

In October 2007, Saint Francis Medical Center opened three new surgical suites providing surgeons and patients with state of the art technology and medical care.

In a prepared statement, president and CEO of Saint Francis, Steven Bjelich, said, "Expanding the surgical suites is part of our five-year master plan to improve facilities and services as Saint Francis. We continue to take great care in how we go about expanding our services to ensure we are meeting the needs of the community in a cost-effective manner."

Also completed in 2007 was the walk-in based knee, hip, and shoulder clinic developed to increase the access of care to those bothered by pain in such areas. The Children's Center was opened earlier in the year, serving the medical needs of patients from newborn to 16 years of age. It is structured to provide needed medical care in family-friendly environment and for the comfort of children. The center includes private rooms with cots or recliners for parents who wish to stay overnight, kid-friendly food choices, a theater and an activity room.

The option of an open MRI, in which patients heads remain outside the machine for most scans opened the same year, as well as a Vein and Laser Center introducing state of the art technology for the elimination of varicose veins.

Southeast Missouri Hospital recently completed a 3,000 square foot addition to HealthPoint Plaza, enabling the expansion of programs to provide additional community service. Looking ahead, the hospital is making progress on a new medical office building, deemed the West Campus.

In an interview with Business Today, Jim Wente, president and CEO of Southeast, said he is very pleased that the construction schedule on the West Campus has been maintained. "The basic outer shell will be completed this year," he says and is looking to 2008 for more specifics on the services that will be provided.

"I'm taking my time," says Wente. At this point, he is considering a number of opportunities and reviewing many service choices.

Saint Francis also has several expansion plans on the docket for the coming year, including expansion of the Gene E. Huckstep Emergency Center/Level III Trauma Center. The plan includes expanding current space and usage of technology. The facility will be constructed as a universal-room concept, giving more flexibility to physicians, nurses, and staff. The added space will be almost three times as large as the current space and will have 26 private rooms. Once started, the $12 million expansion project is expected to take about two years to complete.

In the fall of 2008, Southeast plans to begin expansions in the department of emergency medicine. Wente said the department handles 40,000 patients annually and a high percentage of patients, because of acuity, are admitted to the hospital.

In the past several years, Southeast has recruited close to 100 physicians in a variety of different specialties who have completed their education in some of the "finest schools in the country," says Wente.

In 2008, Southeast will add an electrophysiologist to their cardiovascular department offering a new service to the area.

"We've offered EP services before, but were never able to prolong them, now we will be able to," Wente said. "It will be a wonderful addition to the medical community." They've also recruited a neurosurgeon and an oncologist, both highly trained specialists to further enhance the treatment offered at Southeast. Wente said his concerns for the future fall in two categories. He questions where the next generation of physicians will come from, citing the shortage in young people entering the field of medicine. The other big issue is the absence of a national health care plan.

Mapping out the hospital's future over the next five years is difficult, Wente said, but he imagines added development to the West Campus, including ambulatory services. As the community grows, there will be a continued serious focus on the recruitment of physicians, as well, he says. The Saint Francis Occupational Medicine Clinic will open in January after undergoing expansion and renovation work. The clinic is twice as large with double the number of patient rooms.

"Our master plan for facilities expansion will include many new improvements," Bjelich said. "As we look to 2008, we will continue to grow in order to provide the newest technology, best medical staff and increased quality of care to the region."

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