As COVID-19 infections slow down, medical facilities like Stillwater Medical Center are starting to think about moving from crisis management to assessing their needs for the future.
“Things have gotten so much better,” Stillwater Medical President and CEO Denise Webber told the hospital’s board of directors on Tuesday.
She noted that the state’s intensive care units are still full, but neighboring towns now have a few beds.
COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization continue to pour in, Webber said. But the numbers have been manageable for two to three weeks.
Last Wednesday, SMC reported that all of its intensive care beds were full, four with COVID patients and five with non-COVID patients. It was showing three available non-ICU beds.
As the infections slowed, the hospital began reporting bed capacity once a week.
Emergency room visits reached 3,072 in August, setting a record for the hospital, but fell to 2,419 in September, just above budgeted numbers and just above the total from a year ago.
Outpatient visits also fell from a record 16,363 in August to 15,228 in September, still considerably higher than expected and still higher than at the same time last year.
The decrease in COVID cases and hospitalizations gives SMC administrators a chance to focus on meeting the needs of their staff, according to Webber, which have been pushed beyond stress over the past two years.
“It really is a trauma,” she said.
The theme for the future is “replenishment,” said Webber. There is a real need to spend time rebuilding the team and the organization.
Part of this replenishment involves meeting staff needs and part will have to be literal, in the form of filling vacancies. SMC has needs in everything from nursing to patient services and billing, she said.
But even during the challenges it has faced over the past two years, Stillwater Medical Center has continued to build and expand its facilities.
Calvin Anthony, chairman of the SMC board of directors, noted how much the hospital is spending to add space and equipment, but said he believes ongoing capital improvements would improve patient care and ultimately improve operations and revenues.
Regional chairman and vice chairman of the system, Steven Taylor, who is general manager of Perry Memorial Hospital and Blackwell Regional Hospital, said that is what SMC needs to do to keep pace.
“If we don’t grow we will be left behind,” he said.
The board approved a number of expenses on Tuesday, including construction and equipment.
SMC will spend $ 800,782 to build a new operating room at the Western Surgery Center. A procedure room was initially discussed, but providers there determined that an operating room would provide more benefits, Taylor said. Since an operating room is under construction, the specialized heating, cooling and ventilation requirements represent approximately $ 200,000 of the total cost.
A budget of $ 3.5 million has been approved for renovations in Ortho Oklahoma to add more parking and expand treatment areas in preparation for the arrival of a new provider in the practice. The budget also includes the renovation of a building at 406 S. C Star Blvd, where physiotherapy services currently housed in Ortho Oklahoma will be relocated.
SMC is purchasing the building, which will provide more space than needed for PT and may also house other vendors or storage space for some of the equipment purchased to deal with the surge in patient numbers during the pandemic, said Webber.
An expenditure of $ 1.2 million has been approved for the purchase of a Zimmer Biomets ROSA Knee System. Robotic Orthopedic Surgical Assistant ensures better alignment of implants in partial and full knee replacements, allows smaller incisions, reduces blood loss and reduces time patients spend in hospital, said Dr Scott Stubbs on the board.
A month after surgery, patients operated on using ROSA are doing better, he said.
Despite its cost, having the robotic assistant does not increase the cost of the procedure for the patient. It’s just part of the cost of doing business for the hospital, Stubbs said.
It is now showing sufficient cost benefit and newly trained surgeons will expect to have access to this type of equipment, he said.
Work continues on an expanded surgical unit and women’s center on the main campus and a house for the SMC clinic in Cushing.
Plans are also being made to increase intensive care space at the main hospital.