Saint Francis partners in Poplar Bluff hospital

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hospitals are traditionally thought of as having lots of rooms to care for lots of sick patients, but Saint Francis Medical Center is a partner in a new hospital planned in Poplar Bluff, Mo., licensed for just three patient beds called Black River Community Medical Center.

It's the second three-bed hospital the The Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee has granted a certificate of need for this year. The other is in Washington, Mo.

"The trend is toward more outpatient care. Smaller hospitals like this one in Poplar Bluff and the similar one in Washington can help meet this growing need both conveniently and cost-effectively," said Steven Bjelich, president and CEO at Saint Francis Medical Center.

The three-bed hospital is a joint venture of Saint Francis and Poplar Bluff Medical Partners. The not-for-profit corporation will offer emergency services and provide treatment for illnesses that typically require short hospital stays such as dehydration, asthma, pneumonia and diabetes.

Because the facility is licensed as a hospital, it will qualify for higher federal reimbursement rates than individual physician offices.

Bjelich said increased revenue aids in recruiting of new physicians and improves both health care quality and choice for patients.

Although the initial license will be for three beds, Bjelich said Black River Community Medical Center's goal is to steadily add more and grow into a 150-bed facility.

Poplar Bluff, a town of more than 17,000 people, previously had three hospitals, but now has just one.

"Back then, people had a choice, but now, that choice is limited to just one hospital for many outpatient and inpatient services," Bjelich said.

Saint Francis frequently treats patients who have traveled from Poplar Bluff to Cape Girardeau to receive services that should be able to be provided closer to their homes, Bjelich said.

The application to the Health Facilities Review Committee was supported by 3,400 individual letters and a petition with more than 500 signatures from Poplar Bluff residents, Bjelich said.

SoutheastHEALTH also recently extended its services in Southeast Missouri. In November, SoutheastHEALTH began managing Ripley County Memorial Hospital in Doniphan, now called Southeast Health Center of Ripley County.

* Broadway Corridor meeting today: The city of Cape Girardeau will host a public meeting to receive input on the Broadway Corridor Project from 6 to 8 p.m. today at The Discovery Playhouse, 502 Broadway. City staff and project consultants will be on hand to give a short introduction and explain the project process. Existing conditions on Broadway and streetscape element examples will also be discussed. The presentation will be followed by a brief workshop where participants will be able to share and present their ideas regarding the Broadway Corridor. The rehabilitation of Broadway is a $2.85 million project funded by the city's Transportation Trust Fund tax. It will include new sidewalks, curbs and gutters as well as decorative lighting, trees and benches from Pacific to Water streets. The streetscape portion of the project will be paid for with $1 million the city received from Isle of Capri in exchange for city owned property that is now part of the casino site. The Broadway Corridor Project is scheduled to be completed by the time Isle of Capri's Cape Girardeau casino opens in late 2012.

Southeast Missourian business reporter Melissa Miller may be contacted at 388-3646 or

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