Hospital considered remodel only

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February 25, 2010 - 12:00 AM

PARSONS — Labette Health is nearing the end of a $30 million remodeling project.
Four members of the Allen County Hospital Advisory Committee, Karen Lee, Mary Kay Heard, Mary Ann Arnott and Don Copley, toured the hospital Wednesday afternoon. They were given a detailed view of the remodel that started in 2005.
Brock Sutherland, facilities management director, said the remodeling wasn’t an end unto itself.
“We have more plans,” he said, which may increase overall costs by $15 million to $20 million.
Health Facilities Group LLC, a Wichita-based consulting firm recently employed by Allen County to help determine whether to remodel or build a new hospital here, is also Labette Health’s consultant.
Advisory Committee members will help county commissioners with their decision.
Sutherland told them for Labette Health trustees, it was a no-brainer.
“There was little interest in building a new hospital,” he said, noting that substantial remodeling had also been done in 1975 and 1991 and, “we didn’t think people would want to abandon the hospital. We really didn’t give any thought to building a new hospital.”
No cost estimates even were considered.
But, Sutherland said, “we’re still remodeling an old house and when you do that there never seems to be an end of what you have to do. Also, you get a lot of surprises.”
One included floor elevations that varied between the original hospital and previous expansions and required costly fixes.
To pay for its remodeling, $30 million in revenue bonds — being retired with hospital income — were floated by Labette County.
A good share of the funds went to add a medical-based fitness center with indoor swimming pool, a medical building that is home to nine doctors and two physician’s assistants and a center to treat diabetes and reverse obesity trends.
The fitness center is designed for rehabilitation and as a stepping stone to several local private fitness centers. Several rooms in the three-story medical building have been left unfinished, awaiting specifications from incoming doctors. And, said Larry Goldsmith, public relations director, “we’re trying to create a national model with our diabetes center.”

LABETTE Health opened in 1961. It is owned by Labette County and governed by a board of trustees.
Goldsmith said constantly updating outpatient care and a broad range of other services, along with the periodic facility upgrades, has kept the hospital current.
Labette Health is licensed to operate 105 patient rooms and has 450 employees; ACH has 25 rooms and 165 employees; the hospital lists 41 physicians on its active staff — ACH has 11. Parsons’ population is about 12,000; Iola’s is less than 6,000; Labette County has about 23,000 residents; Allen County has 13,000.
Another difference is that ACH is a critical access hospital, a designation that certifies it to receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare. The designation also limits it to 25 beds.
Labette Health is also noted for its orthopedics program.
Goldsmith said orthopedic surgery had grown to the point that the hospital is now a destination. “We have orthopedics patients from a broad area, even coming here from Wichita,” he said.
Labette Health also is a level III trauma center and has a surgeon on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dr. Dan Myers, resident surgeon at ACH, also is on call 24/7.
Goldsmith said the hospital recognized the need for an increase in outpatient treatment by designating two areas to outpatient procedures, such as chemotherapy and blood work.
“You have to figure out where the dollars are going,” he said.
Labette Health has networking arrangements with other hospitals in Kansas and Missouri and, Goldsmith said, visiting specialists are an important part of its services.

COMMITTEE members were intrigued by what they saw, but also kept in perspective the information they gleaned.
In conversations afterward they noted that Labette Health obviously had forward-thinking trustees and had a vision for health care. They also recognized the difficulty in making direct comparisons between it and ACH.
They will visit other regional medical facilities — Neodesha’s new critical access hospital was mentioned — and continue to catalog what they learn, said Arnott, committee chair.
Labette Health will be a topic when members gather at 3 p.m. Monday for their next session in the assembly room on the lower level of Allen County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.

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