By Timothy Cox
Mercer County Community Hospital officials plan to create a new outpatient center and open a sleep disorder clinic.
The moves will better utilize space inside the Coldwater hospital and create additional revenue streams for the hospital. The hospital’s board of governors approved both plans at this week’s regular monthly board meeting.
The outpatient center, which will be located on part of the second floor now used as overflow office space, will create a one-stop area for outpatient services. Hospital staff will be trained specifically to deal with outpatient services and reduce crowding in other sections of the hospital, CEO Terrence J. Padden said.
The idea for an outpatient center was something that Betty Kahlig, the surgery department’s managing nurse, had wanted for sometime. During senior management meetings with Padden, the hospital’s new CEO, Kahlig’s plans were given management’s blessing.
“She was laying in the weeds waiting for me on this one,” Padden said.
Outpatient services account for about 65 percent of the hospital’s business, so it makes sense to better accommodate those patients, Padden said.
“We feel this unit will increase patient, staff and physician satisfaction by providing a specific area for patients needing outpatient care rather than simply ‘working them in’ on units not prepared to give these patients the care they require in a timely manner,” Kahlig said.
For example, a patient seeking a blood transfusion or IV likely would be set up in the emergency room. But the “helter-skelter” atmosphere of the emergency room is not the best location for such outpatient services, Padden said.
The change will allow some staff members to specialize their training toward outpatient care.
“We will focus nurse training on the more complicated special outpatient procedures ... rather than trying to maintain all of those skills in all the units where these patients may be present,” Kahlig said.
The hospital plans to try to reach a contract agreement with Northwest Sleep Diagnostics, Lima, to open a sleep lab at the hospital. The new program has the support of the medical staff, Padden said.
“There is a definite need for a sleep clinic in Mercer County,” said hospital board member Dr. Tom Schwieterman. “I see many patients who will be able to utilize this service.”
Dr. Franklin Holzer, the hospital’s medical chief of staff, said staff members overwhelmingly approved the idea at their last meeting.
Hospital officials already have had preliminary discussions with the Lima sleep laboratory. Padden said he expects the sides to reach a contract that would allow the Lima physicians to set up on the third floor of the hospital, using their own staff and equipment.
The new sleep lab could be open within 60 days or so, Padden said, on the third floor of the hospital in the old obstetrics area.
Inside a sleep lab, patients snooze while physicians track their sleep patterns, monitoring not only their physical codeacteristics but also brain waves. The lab can be used to diagnose and treat a number of sleep ailments, including sleep apnea, a condition experienced by some snorers who actually stop breathing from time to time while they sleep.
In other business this week, board members:
• Discussed but took no action on creating an audiology lab in the hospital.
• Approved a $31.9 million budget for the new fiscal year that begins April 1.
• Approved revisions to the hospital’s diversion policy that sets up procedures to follow if all of the hospital’s beds are full.
• Learned the hospital received a check for $1,132,304, from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, to help recoup flood damage costs at the hospital’s Community Medical Center in Celina. The payment does not cover all the damages and rebuilding costs, which were about $1.7 million.