PARKERSBURG - St. Joseph's Hospital experienced a positive year in 2010, remaining strong financially and through its programs and services, said CEO Jack Julius.
Julius feels St. Joseph's made very good progress in 2010, remaining strong financially and profitable on a month-by-month and annual basis while also making achievements in the areas of quality assurance and patient safety and satisfaction.
Julius attributes much of the success to the hospital's employees. During 2010, St. Joseph's started working on a new management process that involved getting input from everyone at all levels in a department in an attempt to make improvements and increase efficiency.
Dr. Jack Casas, an interventional cardiologist with St. Joseph’s and Camden-Clark Memorial hospitals, discusses the Impella, a new piece of equipment that has been added to the cardiac services department at SJH.
As an example, the hospital focused on its emergency department, looking at all of the steps and processes in the department to see where improvements could be made and changes put in place. As a result of the changes, the emergency department was able to decrease the amount of time a patient spent waiting in the ER between the time a decision is made to admit someone to the hospital to getting them a bed in the hospital.
"Instead of, previously I think it was an hour-and-a-half between the time it was determined that you needed to have an in-patient bed, we've got that down to about 20 minutes, through just better coordination and through looking at each piece of the puzzle, each piece of the process," Julius said.
Under the management program, another change was made in the out-patient service area by relocating a lab for drawing blood for various tests to that area to decrease the amount of time spent waiting and the interior travel that people had to do. The hospital also set aside some special parking for that area, for people who would only need to come in for a few minutes, have blood taken and then leave, he said.
St. Joseph's modernized its orthopedics floor through renovations and conducted other improvement projects during the past year. The hospital also continued recruiting doctors to improve its various services, including in the cardiology department.
At the start of this year, the hospital conducted its 1000th open heart surgery since the program started in April 2004. The hospital also continued to make improvements in that area, including a new up-to-date cardiac catheritization suite to replace the hospital's older unit.
"That was a major undertaking and a major capital investment," Julius said of the new suite and some related improvements made as part of the overall project.
Late in 2010, the cardiac services department at St. Joseph's Hospital added a new piece of equipment which helps serve high risk patients in need of angioplasty.
Dr. Jack Casas, interventional cardiologist at St. Joseph's and Camden-Clark Memorial hospitals, said the new device, called the Abiomed Impella, is used to help the heart pump blood more effectively in cases of low blood pressure or a weakened heart rhythm, called cardiogenic shock.
The drop in blood pressure, or the amount of blood moving through the body, can affect other organs, including the kidneys, liver and brain. If the blood flow is too low, those organs can be irreversibly damaged, he said.
Casas said the new equipment benefits patients who might otherwise be high risk for surgery, such as those with emphysema or kidney disease, as examples. The Impella allows the doctors to serve higher-risk patients with minimal risk to their overall health, without requiring anesthesia or open heart surgery, he said.
In July, St. Joseph's opened its new emergency squad room, providing space for emergency squad personnel at the hospital. The room, located near the hospital's emergency department, is a place set aside for personnel to relax, do their paperwork and get something to eat in between runs, officials said.
In the past, emergency crews were spread out around the emergency department as people were coming and going. The room is open for all emergency squad personnel, from local hospitals to the volunteer units from the outlying counties who are bringing patients to the hospital. Ambulance crews that regularly make transports to and from nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers can also use the room.
In a plan announced in 2010 and expected to be completed early this year, the West Virginia United Health System is purchasing St. Joseph's while simultaneously affiliating with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, bringing both groups together under one organization. Both hospitals will be consolidated under the CCMH legal and governance structure and operate as a subsidiary of WVUHS.
Looking ahead at 2011, Julius most of the early focus will be on the transition of St. Joseph's with CCMH and WVUHS. Once that is completed, officials will again look at improvements and changes that can be made at St. Joseph's as part of the new overall framework.
"For now, our focus is on the transition," he said.