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Long-term expectations high for Select Specialty Hospital

In five years, Select Specialty Hospital at Jackson (SSHJ) has grown beyond initial expectations, and now serves as a model for its parent company, Select Medical Corporation (SMC). The long-term acute care (LTAC) facility was the first location in the 27-state network owned by SMC to move into a freestanding facility, and the hospital is seeing a growing patient volume.

“We have more than exceeded where I thought we would be,” said Jess Brasher, RN, BSN, a Mississippi native and director of provider relations at SSHJ. “I never dreamed when we started in 2002 that we would be in this facility and growing like we are.”

Trail blazing

In 2002, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) issued a certificate of need to Specialty Medical Corporation for a 40-bed LTAC facility to be located on a floor of the Central Mississippi Medical Center (CMMC) in Jackson. The relationship between CMMC and SSHJ was strictly owner-tenant.

Brasher, who came on board just months before SSHJ opened, said the initial operation in CMMC proved successful yet challenging. Patient volume grew, and CMMC’s support staff such as housekeeping and security were strained to meet the needs of both hospitals.

Searching for an answer, SMC, which also owns Select Specialty Hospital-Gulfport, started looking at its current home on Ridgewood Road, which at that time was under-utilized.

That changed when SMC gained MSDH approval to relocate SSHJ there in 2005. It was a pioneering move for the company, whose other facilities were all a “hospital-in-a-hospital.”

Brasher said the relocation was somewhat challenging. The company had to cope with setting up its own supporting services such as landscaping and maintenance. But, the move immediately increased SSHJ’s number of beds from 40 to 53, a much-needed expansion, and the hospital is still in a growth mode today.

Meeting long-term needs

On the day Brasher was interviewed for this story SSHJ was filled nearly to capacity. When SSHJ opened in 2002, it was seeing approximately 35 patients per day. Today, it is serving roughly 46 patients daily, and that number is still rising.

SSHJ, which is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and Medicare-certified as well as state-licensed, offers everything a general hospital does with the exception of emergency, labor/delivery, pediatrics and surgical services. The staff is made of approximately 250 part- and full-time individuals offering pulmonary/vent, medically complex, neuro/post-trauma and wound care services as well as renal, infectious disease and cardiac/heart failure programs. The hospital is served by five physicians, four hospitalists and other specialists, and one physician sleeps at the hospital to ensure around-the-clock care.

SSHJ utilizes nearly 60,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the facility, with the rest of the space upstairs, approximately 50,000 square feet, leased to physicians, some of whom also work with the hospital. Brasher said he saw an immediate need to expand its number of high-observation beds (the equivalent of an ICU in a general hospital), which currently stands at seven. Space built originally for labor and delivery is currently unused, and Brasher pointed there for future expansion he is confident will come.

Rise of specialties

The rise of LTAC facilities such as SSHJ is being driven by both money and quality of care. LTAC facilities are designed to meet the needs of patients whose care requires additional and unexpected hospital time. If a patient’s care extends beyond the time expected when initially diagnosed, general hospitals stand to lose money. LTAC facilities are certified and licensed to care for such patients. In fact, SSHJ must keep patients a minimum average of 25 days in order to meet the requirements of its license.

Quality of care is also a growth-driver. LTAC hospitals have the capacity and capability to focus on the special needs of not only patients, but their families, as well.

“When patients and their families come here, they are usually already in a crisis mode,” Brasher said. “The patient hasn’t recovered as expected, so they walk in with concerns and fears. We can offer individualized, focused attention and care. When we have meetings of the doctors and staff about patient care, we talk about each patient individually.”

Brasher added that specialization is becoming more and more prominent in the healthcare industry, and not just with facilities. He said an ever-increasing number of healthcare professionals are choosing to specialize in a specific area of medicine.

For Brasher, it all comes back to quality care. Initially a nurse in a general hospital setting, he saw firsthand the needs of those patients whose recovery did not meet initial expectations.

He pointed to a current patient from Central Mississippi who was severely burned and was transported to Alabama. Other complications arose, and the patient’s family was forced to make long-distance commutes every weekend. Now in SSHJ, the patient is receiving the care she needs, and the family’s burden has been lessened.

“That case is exactly why we’re here,” he said. “It’s very rewarding to see both the patient and her family cared for.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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