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Hospital working to update practices, hire new CEO

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Officials with LifePoint Hospitals expect to announce the hiring of a new chief executive officer for Memorial Hospital in Martinsville.

The search has been narrowed to two “very strong” candidates who are in the process of meeting with LifePoint executives and hospital medical staff and board members, said Eric Deaton, chief executive officer of LifePoint’s south central Virginia market.

LifePoint is trying to determine which candidate would be the best fit for Memorial, and that has been “an exhaustive process,” Deaton said.

Memorial’s former CEO, Grady “Skip” Philips III, resigned in September to become senior vice president and chief operating officer of Valley Health System and Winchester Medical Center in Winchester.

Last fall, Memorial and Danville Regional formed what LifePoint officials have described as a “regional health care system” designed to improve services to patients throughout southern Virginia. Both are owned by LifePoint.

In addition to his duties at Danville Regional, Deaton has overseen Memorial since Philips left. He said he typically spends two days a week in Martinsville.

The hospital now has about 900 employees, officials said.

Memorial needs its own full-time CEO who lives in Martinsville-Henry County and can be actively involved in the community to better determine what the community’s unique health care needs are, Deaton said.

Deaton described the Memorial-Danville Regional relationship as “a merger in some ways” — but not a full-fledged merger — in that, for instance, they are combining some of their resources and their doctors are collaborating more.

The hospices of the two hospitals have merged and now operate as Legacy Hospice of the Piedmont, as the one in Danville originally was known.

Deaton said the hospitals now are looking at other ways to collaborate, such as by combining their information systems departments, which would let them share patient information.

By sharing information, a patient at Memorial who has to go to Danville for a medical procedure might not have to undergo a test there that he already had at Memorial. That would reduce the patient’s costs, said Dr. Saria Saccocio, chief medical officer for LifePoint’s south central Virginia market.

Because the Danville hospital is larger, it is able to provide more health care services. Although a local patient may be referred to that hospital for services that Memorial does not provide, LifePoint officials said there are no plans to eliminate any services now being provided at Memorial.

“We want to make sure we keep people local,” Saccocio said, because it is easier on them and their families.

Yet unique situations arise. For instance, Saccocio said, if a local patient needs an intensive care unit bed and one is not available at Memorial while Danville Regional has such a bed, the patient might be transferred there.

Practices that Memorial recently has put into place to try to improve care, according to officials, include:

• At shift changes, nurses go into patient rooms, with the nurses going off duty discussing patients’ conditions with nurses coming on duty. That helps patients and family members have more participation in the patients’ care, Saccocio said.

Previously, those conversations between nurses were held privately, she said.

• Using a computerized physician order entry system to eliminate confusion among medical staff members as to doctors’ instructions that otherwise would be written by hand.

• All hospital employees being encouraged to immediately report to management anything they see that might jeopardize patient safety.

LifePoint recently recognized Memorial for having the most improvements in patient care among facilities in the chain of 60 hospitals, officials said.

Despite the focus on providing better care, “I think it (the collaboration) will save money over time,” said Deaton.

Possibilities along that line, he mentioned, include the hospitals buying supplies in bulk and recruiting doctors who are willing to split their time between Martinsville and Danville versus practicing in just one city.

Memorial now has 77 affiliated doctors. It recruited 10 physicians last year and hopes to recruit five or six this year, officials said.

The hospital hopes to recruit a new spine surgeon — the only other local doctor who performed such surgery died — and enhance its cardiology and thoracic surgery capabilities, Deaton said.

Memorial also wants to recruit more primary care physicians, along with more physician assistants and nurse practitioners, to the area.

“There is a real need for primary care” providers locally, Deaton said, so people can see a doctor sooner when they are sick and to reduce patient loads in the hospital’s emergency room.

Care provided by primary care physicians costs less than emergency room care, he noted.

“Hospitalists” — physicians who practice solely in the hospital, usually caring for patients staying there — are on duty around the clock at Memorial in Martinsville, officials said.

Student doctors from certain medical schools, including Liberty University, help care for patients at Danville Regional. LifePoint officials said their use eventually may be extended to Memorial.

Medical students help to “raise the bar” on medical care, Saccocio said, because it means “more eyes are on the patient.”

Because they learn the latest medical knowledge and procedures and how to use the most modern diagnostic equipment, medical students offer worthwhile ideas into patient care that older, more established doctors may not think of, she said.

And, they “have fire in the belly” — an eagerness to share their ideas, she added.

Deaton said Memorial would be interested in having students from the new medical school being established by the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine in Martinsville. However, he said the hospital has not yet had any conversations with officials from the centers concerning that idea.

 

 
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