Hospital happenings

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As health care costs continue to rise, burdening many, local hospitals are embracing the issues and the community by providing top-notch services and extending services to areas outside the city limits.

In May, Solucient, a national health care information consultant, named Penrose-St. Francis Health Services one of the nation’s 100 best hospital systems for the second time. The first award was bestowed in 1998.

J.D. Power and Associates, a global information services firm, this year awarded Penrose-St. Francis a customer-service excellence notation. Health Grades, a national ratings and service company, headquartered in Lakewood, Colo., gave the Penrose system a five-star rating in 2004. Only two other Colorado hospitals – Rose Medical in Denver and Poudre Valley Hospital system in Fort Collins – received the five-star rating.

Rick O’Connell, president and chief executive officer of Penrose-St. Francis, said the awards demonstrate quality outcomes resulting from an excellent team of health care professionals.

Penrose-St. Francis is quality driven because of the board’s expectations, O’Connell said. Those expectations trickle down to management and staff, creating outstanding medically based outcomes, he said.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield presented the Centers of Excellence award to Penrose-St. Francis for its cardiology and bariatric surgical practices. The cardiology department participates in various data protocols set up through national organizations, and O’Connell believes this helps keep the hospital system ahead of the game with regard to cardiology procedures and applicable treatments.

Overall, there is a high mortality risk for bariatric surgeries, O’Connell said.

“We have the longest running patient population of bariatric surgeries without fatality,” he said. Bariatric surgery is weight reduction through gastrointestinal surgery, an option for people who weigh more than 100 pounds, and, at Penrose, the surgery is done laproscopically. O’Connell said 85 percent of the Penrose patients lose weight successfully.

The truth behind the Penrose-St. Francis accolades is that it is about the people who practice medicine on a daily basis, O’Connell said. “We have leadership among our nursing and clinical directors,” he said. “We focus on patient care, and quality is a directive. Our people are committed to the system – maybe it’s because we are a 117-year-old institution, or perhaps the religious-based aspect brings in the people or maybe it’s the fact that we provide educational and other opportunities to our employees. Our awards would not be possible without the care and compassion of everyone, from housekeeping to the medical staff. It’s an entire team effort manifested through the board.”

Dr. Terry O’Rourke, the medical director of the Penrose Cancer Center, chose Penrose as his primary practice site after a stint in the military. A commitment to excellence is achieved through the excellent quality of care and quality medical staff, O’Rourke said. “Quality-performance standards come from the top, and Penrose administrators provide the resources to deliver that type of quality of care. The leadership delivers a culture that is carried out at the bedside.”

Quality of care is one thing, but both Colorado Springs hospital systems recognize the need for growth as the increasing population dictates.

Memorial Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its new rehabilitation center at 2999 New Center Point near Powers Boulevard and South Carefree Circle on June 5. Kay Hay is the director of outpatient rehabilitation, and she said a burgeoning client base and a boom in the population of eastern El Paso County created the need for the expansion. Formerly housed at the Safeway Shopping Center across Powers Boulevard, the rehab center quickly outgrew its space. Memorial Hospital will increase its rehabilitation services at the newly leased area, adding physical, occupational and speech therapies for children and maintaining three physical therapists for the adult population.

Memorial has seven satellite rehabilitation facilities; the main rehab center is at 175 S. Union Blvd., near the hospital. The purpose of the outlying rehab centers is for the convenience of the customer, Hay said.

Grants prepare hospitals for emergency response

For the third year in a row, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced a $7.7 million grant to Colorado hospitals and health care centers to facilitate emergent responses to counter uncontrollable circumstances. The federal government initially set up the grant in response to the Sept. 11 disasters.

In 2004, hospitals across the state will receive $50,000 each for equipment, construction and/or whatever it takes to get up-to-snuff regarding emergency care provisions. Dr. Ned Colange is the chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health, and he said the federal grant is a coordinated effort between the public health system and the hospitals. Emergent responses need to be carefully integrated through law enforcement, fire safety and medical teams, he said. “The $7.7 million granted in 2003 wasn’t available until January 2004,” Colange said.

“Out of the $7.7 million, $4.6 million has been allocated to hospitals for the purchase of equipment or the construction of new buildings or additions, like isolation rooms,” he said. Hospitals outside of the Denver Metro area will be able to purchase computers for hospital labs and emergency room departments. One million dollars will go toward maintaining a sufficient supply of emergency pharmaceuticals before the federal pharmaceutical supply arrives. Ancillary emergency services like fire departments, ambulance companies and community health care providers will receive another $1 million.

The federal government allows 20 percent to be used toward administrative costs, Colange said. The recently awarded $7 million allocation, all a part of the government’s three-year plan, is on its way sometime this year, Colange said. The initial dollars, first distributed in 2002, were used in part for hospital needs’ assessments and efforts to mobilize emergency responses.

The purpose of the grant is to fund programs for all-hazard preparedness plans for each state, Colange said.

Before the $50,000 could be distributed, Colorado hospitals were required to participate in a survey identifying each system’s emergency-based needs. O’Connell said Penrose-St. Francis opted for decontamination equipment.

Jerry Stewart is the director of facility management at Memorial Hospital, and he said the federal grant monies are intended for natural, chemical or radiological disasters, and priorities are broken down according to each hospital. O’Connell said the grant has specific deliverables, and the costs of those deliverables are figured at the state level. Memorial’s priorities, according to the survey, include communication enhancements, modifying the ventilation systems in emergency rooms, purchasing personal protective equipment and two-way radios for internal communications during emergency events, assistance with consultants or additional staff to help manage the training exercises and software programs and education.

Whether its commitment to growth or emergency preparedness, O’Connell said the process has involved a citywide effort, where everyone has stepped up to the plate to ensure positive outcomes for the community in the face of a natural disaster or other emergency.


For the third year in a row, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced a $7.7 million grant to Colorado hospitals and health care centers to facilitate emergent responses to counter uncontrollable circumstances. The federal government initially set up the grant in response to the Sept. 11 disasters.