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Moving forward

New $2.7-million medical park, wellness center part new construction, improvements

At a time when some hospitals are struggling with financial and staffing issues, the Singing River Health System is thriving. Based in Pascagoula, the system includes Singing River Hospital and Ocean Springs Hospital. The system is moving forward with a new $22.7-million medical park and wellness center in Pascagoula and continues to add state-of-the-art equipment and medical staff. Unlike some Coast hospitals, the Singing River hospitals retained 75 percent of their physicians after Hurricane Katrina and have gained 100 since the 2005 storm.

Singing River Hospital

Singing River Hospital

However, chief executive officer Chris Anderson says the system has felt some effects from the economic recession. “We have experienced an increase in write-offs and decrease in collections,” he said. “Our margin, like that of most healthcare systems and hospitals, is down this year.”

Many of the system’s projects were begun several years ago with financing plans in place at that time. Still, he says the system plans for economic cycles which occur in all industries and tries to maintain some level of consistency in good and bad years.

“We aspire to be one of the very best healthcare systems in the country and not just in the current year but in every year for generations to come,” he said. “To do this, we have an excellent planning process, and we must continue to invest in our future.”

Attracting and retaining medical and other personnel is a priority. Anderson says many factors contribute to the system’s success, including the culture of excellence that attracts and retains talented and dedicated people.

“We communicate with all our employees and physicians,” he said. “We recently hired a people development manager who works exclusively in building programs for helping all of our employees grow and develop. We ask for employee input, formally surveying our employees regularly and responding to the results.”

Through this process, the administration looks at every aspect of employee relationships, including work environment, communications, leadership, compensation and benefits, opportunities for promotion and educational opportunities. “I am more proud of our work in this area than in any other,” he added.

Currently under construction, the three-story Medical Park sits just East of Singing River Hospital on U.S. 90 in Pascagoula. It consists of 70,000 square feet and will house the Neuroscience Center, medical laboratory, outpatient imaging services, cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy and the Healthplex Medical Wellness Center. The project is expected to be completed in early 2011. The new facility was designed to meet the needs of outpatients and to provide a space where treatment, preventive and lifestyle improvement services are located together, allowing patients to access multiple services in a convenient manner.

Anderson

Anderson

“When completed, this project is going to take a significant amount of stress off the hospital,” Anderson said. “It’s going to improve access, parking and service for all of the patients who use hospital services and the services in this medical office park.”

The health system continues to invest in the latest medical equipment such as the 1/128th-slice CAT scan that improves accuracy in diagnoses, robot drug dispenser and a machine that delivers more accurate radiation to cancer patients. The new $1.5-million CAT scan imaging system provides high definition, low radiation and is the Coast’s first system of this kind. It enables doctors to see internal structures in the human body as small as a grain of sand in a single rotation. The nearest healthcare facility with the same equipment is the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Another piece of new equipment, the $3-million state-of-the-art linear accelerator delivers external beam radiation faster and more accurately than other equipment.

A medication dispensing robot may sound like something from science fiction, but it has a practical application in Singing River Hospital’s Pharmacy Department. The robot or PillPick system, which automatically packages, stores and dispenses unit does medications in bar coded packages, is the first in use in Mississippi and one of only 12 nationwide.

It is officially called an advanced automated drug management system that’s manufactured by Swisslog, a leading provider of pharmacy automation solutions. The system packages tablets, capsules and odd-shaped items such as syringes, ampoules, vials and liquid cups in bar-coded unit doses.

“We invested in this system because we want to work smarter, not harder,” said Madelline Collazo, director of pharmacy for Singing River Health System. “At Singing River Hospital we have a high number of medications – 4,600 – to dispense each day. We have been dispensing each does the old way, individually.”

These improvements are part of the health system’s commitment to the communities it serves. “We have a great relationship with the communities we serve,” Anderson said. “We are seeing more patients than ever before, from a larger area than ever before. We survey patients regularly and our service is rated very high when compared with other hospitals around the country.”

He says the focus is on improving the health of residents.  The system has a large number of community health programs and support groups and is working with residents and employers to develop more programs for healthy lifestyles.

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