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PMC Nearing Completion of Expansion Project, Dr. Smith Leaving for Temporary Reserves Deployment

PMC HVAC (2)

Craig Loveless, Prowers Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, provided a mix of informational updates for the Prowers County Commissioners on Monday, May 23rd.  He recapped the efforts required to place the new HVAC system atop the hospital several weeks ago and had been fearful the project would be delayed.  “The crane wasn’t able to leave Pueblo on Friday because the weather was too bad and the crew didn’t arrive at the hospital until Saturday morning,” he explained.  He said all the systems must have clicked into place, because by 1:30 that afternoon, the job was over and the crane had been dismantled and taken away.  The heating and air conditioning system is currently being balanced and checked for performance.

One other project in the renovation program that showed a minor error was the nature of the mirrors in the new gym under construction, “They aren’t up to expectations. You look as if you are gazing at a mirror in a carnival fun-house, so those are going back for new ones,” he stated.  Loveless said a new roof will be installed this summer and they still have some issues with plumbing which will be addressed.  “We hope to have all the work done in the next few weeks, but are delaying our grand opening until this summer, perhaps August or September at the latest.  We want to be sure that all our systems are operational before we open for public viewing and we’d like to find a time when the new operating theaters aren’t in use.”

Staffing has always been an on-going issue, especially for rural hospitals. Loveless said, “We’re seeking a permanent doctor for OB/GYN, just so our clientele can become comfortable with a permanent physician for them.  Our rotational doctors have offered constant coverage and have been on staff for some time, but it’s not exactly the same.”  The CEO stated that Doctor Abbott will return to PMC for several months and he hoped he could be brought on board full-time.

One doctor is leaving for a brief period. Dr. James Smith, who is continuing his military service in the Reserves is being shipped to Honduras at the end of the month.  “We expect him to be gone for about 120 days and expect him to return by September.  He’ll be at a centralized military base to serve the armed forces stationed in Central and South America.  It won’t be considered a combat zone, as was his last deployment,” he explained.  Loveless said Dr. Swanson will pick up his duties in the interim and the hospital may have to divert some emergency cases away from the area when she’s gone on weekends.

Even though some sections of the hospital will be brand new, the CEO detailed some aging equipment issues for the commissioners. “We need to upgrade our imagery equipment in the next three to five years.  Some of our equipment is not digital as most now are,” he explained, adding, “We want to bring in a new CT scan which monitors radioactivity levels.  Even if there’s a small dosage issued by some of the equipment, we are required to track these reports.  There was a past time when x-rays for even ‘minor’ ailments were used as standard practice, but now, those have become our last option.”  The MRI trailer was renewed for an additional year and although it’s still fully operational, it too, is becoming dated.  Loveless said, “A refurbished model costs $500,000 and that has to be accounted for in the budget.

Regarding hospital finances, the CEO said political issues are going to impact future revenues. “The Provider Fee fix did not get out of committee at the state level, so there was no vote on it, but it will create needed revenue statewide. We’ve had good support from our community which has helped us maintain a profitability level to afford this expansion project and new equipment.”  Loveless said he and other hospital CEO’s are concerned about a November vote on Amendment 69.  “We can’t see this pass, as it will impact the entire state with a payroll tax hike of 10%.  That’s money that’s taxed on both employers and employees and has the potential to drive people away from locating in the state.  The hospital associations are not in favor and we need to educate the community on what type of impact this could have if it’s passed.”   Commissioner Wendy Buxton-Andrade seconded his views on the amendment saying the statewide counties organization, CCI, has set time aside at their next meeting to discuss its potential impact.

Loveless addressed the need for better in-patient care, an issue he’s been discussing with High Plains Community Health Center and Southeast Health. He explained that too few physicians mean they become overworked as well as having to out-source patients from the area.  He described another area of frustration, “The 96 hour rule is something the American Health Association is lobbying against.  If we can’t successfully treat a patient in 96 hours, they are moved for continued care to another facility.”  He explained this can work against a patient’s healthcare interests in some cases.  “If someone has pneumonia, treatment with antibiotics takes at least 72 hours to run its course and if the first round doesn’t aid the patient, you start a second procedure and we’ve had to transfer people away for that second treatment after 96 hours.”  He offered the example of a financially strapped family that was charged ambulance fees to transfer their family member and no one could afford to go with them to another hospital in a different city.  “One out of every six of our patients is indigent which means that additional financial burden is stressful.”  Loveless explained that there are some free health care options such as a wellness check and the public needs to become aware of what is available for them in the community, “In some instances four out of every ten people aren’t choosing these options and they need to become aware of what they are entitled to for medical coverage.”

By Russ Baldwin

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