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Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Board approves purchase of chemistry analyzer

By Shelley Grieshop

Mercer Health board members Sharon LaRue, left, and Mary Lou Wenning watch as hi. . .

COLDWATER - Lab technicians at Mercer Health received a delayed Christmas present Wednesday night as board members approved the purchase of high-tech equipment used to analyze samples such as blood, tissue and urine.
Board members voted to purchase the $130,000 chemistry analyzer from Beckman Coulter to replace a 5-year-old model currently being used. The total cost for the first year, which includes a maintenance contract and other initial expenses, is $257,098.
During a brief presentation, Laura Rolfes, laboratory manager at Mercer County Community Hospital, Coldwater, said one of the features of the new equipment is an automated removal of the cap from the tube containing the sample. Currently, the cap is removed by lab personnel. The automated method helps maximize protection of the sample, she added.
Rolfes said cost savings and the possibility of reducing valuable diagnostic time - particularly in emergency cases - helped steer the lab staff toward the Beckman Coulter offer.
"We also looked for additional tests the equipment would allow us to do," she said, adding the lab intends to add at least six new tests that previously were sent away to other facilities.
Rolfes said she also is checking into the possibility of selling the current used model.
In other business, board members were asked to review a 47-page joint venture agreement with Grand Lake Health Systems in St. Marys for the ownership and operation of the medical facility on Pro Drive in Celina. The $3.5 million renovation project currently underway on the building is expected to be completed in the next few months.
The private, nonprofit entity will house physicians based out of hospitals in Coldwater and St. Marys, as well as offer a variety of medical services on site.
The documents detail how Mercer Health and Grand Lake Health Systems will form and manage two companies: one for ownership of the building and the second to oversee its operations. The deal is a 50/50 venture with each hospital contributing equally. A board will be created with equal representation from both hospitals, Mercer Health CEO Jim Wermert explained.
Wermert said the legal document likely will be finalized in the next few weeks. The board of governors and the board of trustees will be asked to approve it next month, or no later than March, the start of the new fiscal year, he added.
Also on Wednesday evening, Wermert introduced to the board Cindy Berning of Maria Stein, the hospital's new vice president of finance. Berning replaces Wermert, who officially became CEO last year. Berning started her new position Jan. 1.
Berning, 35, previously worked 71/2 years in the accounting department at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys. She received her undergraduate degree in accounting and her master's in business administration at Wright State University.
In other business, the board:
• Approved an updated version of the hospital's impaired practitioners and disruptive practitioners medical staff policy. The policy outlines what constitutes an impaired or disruptive practitioner and steps that are taken if allegations arise.
• Learned the interior design of the $3.4 million emergency room/outpatient project is ready, although officials are still awaiting exterior design plans from architects. The work on the addition/renovation is expected to begin this spring.
• Was introduced to Amy Clark, the new disaster preparedness coordinator for Mercer Health and Grand Lake Health Systems.
• Held an executive session to discuss personnel issues but took no action.
Additional online story on this date
A Celina man appeared Wednesday morning in Mercer County Common Pleas Court and pleaded not guilty to numerous charges stemming from a Jan. 2 incident when he allegedly restrained and threatened his girlfriend. [More]
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