Phone system hangs up hospital plans



October 23, 2013 - 12:00 AM

“I want to hear a dial tone,” said Ron Baker, in regards to the dysfunctional phone system at the new Allen County Regional Hospital.
On Tuesday, AT&T representatives installed what hospital administrators hope will be a temporary phone system that will allow the hospital to open.
“I will in no way, shape or form commit to an opening date until AT&T gives me a firm commitment that things are operational,” Baker, chief executive officer of the hospital, told trustees Tuesday night.
The hospital was scheduled to open on Oct. 29.
The problem is lack of connectivity between the hospital and the AT&T center in its downtown Iola office.
“What caused the problem is not material,” said Harry Lee, chairman of hospital trustees. “What I want to know is when can we have the work-around solution and when will the fiber be ready.”
Administrators were led to believe the fiber optics system would be activated Sept. 1. The contract with AT&T was drawn up in March and as recently as September were told all systems were go.
The lines were laid and the circuit boards installed, but for whatever reason, do not transmit voice.
The “work-around” solution involved establishing a T1 line to activate a line of voice communication while waiting for the fiber optics system to be in working order.
 “When the fiber optic has been tested and is functional, then AT&T will hand it over to us and we will cut from one system to the other,” said Lee.
Baker said, “I’m a little reluctant to set anything in motion again until we know for sure all the connections work. If we can get something within the next couple of days that gives a solid level of assurance that we can have voice then we can begin to reschedule the opening date.”
Postponing the move has been a nightmare for hospital employees.
The moving company, scheduled months ago, was expected Tuesday to begin the transfer of equipment.
“We have to assume the vendors will be available at the new dates,” Baker said of the many pieces in the moving puzzle, including notification to many state agencies of the move.
Some major pieces of equipment have already been moved to the new hospital, “with no return,” said Patti McGuffin, director of nursing, including the hospital’s X-ray machine. A portable device at the current hospital will be used in the interim, she said.
The new 64-slice CT scanner is being assembled at the new hospital, “as we speak,” Baker said. A company representative will travel weekly to the new facility to ensure the new scanner is at the right calibrations, Baker said, until the radiology department is moved to the hospital.
“Equipment like the scanner has to run on a regular basis or it loses its calibrations,” Baker said. “The weekly testing will be necessary.”
Activity at the hospital includes installation of shelving and new furniture as it arrives.

IN OTHER NEWS, Baker led trustees through a review of the volume of services provided to patients during the most recent quarter of the year, along with historical data back to 2005.
“The trend is started to edge upward” in a variety of services and the number of patients staying at the hospital or using the hospital on an outpatient basis, Baker said.
“October has been a barn-burner of a month for us,” he said of the hospital’s high volume of patients, including those using medical, surgical, obstetrics, newborn and swing-bed services. The latter is where patients stay in the hospital after surgical procedures.
The hospital also has seen an uptick in outpatients due to new management of the hospital’s occupational, speech and physical therapy departments. RehabVisions has added three full-time employees to the department since it took over management mid-year.
Departments seeing a loss of activity include surgery. The hospital has been without an in-house surgeon since the early part of the year.
The hospital conducted a health fair for City of Iola employees recently. Eighty-seven participated; receiving lab work, bone density scans and other services. Thirteen women signed up to receive mammograms.
Last week’s commemoration ceremonies of the new hospital also came when a team of Joint Commission investigators came to inspect the current hospital, and its hospice and home health programs over a three-day period.
“Overall, it was a very good survey,” said McGuffin, and the staffs can rest assured of their accreditation status.

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