Penrose-St. Francis takes new direction for trauma center

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Brent Kennedy and his wife always figured they would someday give up their careers as ballet dancers. Kennedy didn’t realize that, for him, it would end sooner rather than later. In February this year, Kennedy suffered a spinal infarction – a rare stroke-like episode. Within two hours of the episode, Kennedy was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at Penrose Main, where he remained for a month. Almost eight months later, Kennedy has recovered use in his upper body, but, he said, “I remain paralyzed from the trunk down.”

Kennedy and other former brain and spinal cord injured and stroke-related patients joined Penrose-St. Francis staff and Sherwood the rehabilitation dog on Oct. 21 to celebrate the rehabilitation center’s new, enhanced and aggressive treatment program. Kennedy demonstrated Sherwood’s value as the “rehab dog” with a game of tug of war.

Dr. Glen House is the medical director for the 21-bed center, and he said, as the center expands its capabilities, taking the center to another level, patients can now get everything they need for their rehabilitation treatment needs in Colorado Springs.

“We take a specialized approach to our patients, who also include multiple trauma injuries, including early and aggressive treatment,” House said. “Our concept involves a continuum of care that begins the moment the patient comes into the hospital – into intensive care. We need to get to them as soon as possible to maximize the outcomes and prevent complications.”

Gary Morse is the director of Penrose/St. Francis rehabilitation centers. He said keeping up with new technology and state-of-the art training systems is vital to the center’s success.

Kennedy said he couldn’t have recovered to this point in his treatment without the center. “The center helped me get back my life again.”

Healthcare management company expanding locally

Physicians are accountable for the patient diagnostic tests they order, and CareCore National is responsible for intercepting those decisions and determining their necessity. CareCore is opening a third diagnostics operations center in the Springs, expanding from its current sites in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and Hardeville, S.C.

Doug Tardio is the chief operating officer based at the New York CareCore headquarters. He said the company plans to hire about 100 healthcare professionals in 2005, adding to the company’s current roster of about 300 employees.

CareCore is a major utilization review management company that acts as an assessment tool for insurance companies, Tardio said. “Physicians ordering diagnostic tests, such as MRIs, call our center and provide the clinical information our staff needs to determine if the patient meets the guidelines,” he said. “Only physicians can deny services, so that is why we will be bringing them on board along with nurses and customer service representatives.”

Tardio said a research study concluded the company would be successful recruiting nurses in the Springs. “We thought about Phoenix, but chose the Springs because of the demographics,” he said. “And we run 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so our placement in this area will offset our two centers back east.” Tardio said all three centers are “seamless” – each center intercepts calls from all areas of the country.

“Another important piece for us was a tight turnaround,” he said. “We hope to have 60-plus staff up and running within the first quarter 2005.”

The center will locate at the Chapel Hills Atrium Building at 1125 Kelly Johnson Blvd.

Two county health programs receive grants

When Anthem bought nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield, the sale proceeds had to be designated to another nonprofit, according to tax regulations. In response, Anthem Blue Cross created the Caring for Colorado Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that provides grants to Colorado organizations improving the health status of the underserved in Colorado.

Chris Wiant is the president and chief executive officer of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He said 5 percent of the organization’s assets or about $5 to $6 million per year is allocated to fund programs like community health care projects and teen pregnancy issues. In the four years since the foundation was established, more than $23 million has been awarded in grants, he said.

“We base our grants on community input,” Wiant said. “The governor appoints our board, and our 15 board members are representative of the entire state.”

In October, the foundation awarded monies to two El Paso County health care programs. Centro de la Familia received $41,438 for violence and child abuse prevention programs and parenting education for Spanish speaking Coloradoans, Native Americans and immigrant families.

Colorado residents who cannot access transportation for medical appointments are the target of an $11,000 grant that was awarded to Pikes Peak Partnership. The award was specific to people with disabilities or those who have geographical challenges.

More partners

in health

Millions of Americans – more than 294 million to be exact – rely on 5 million U.S. health care providers for their wellness-related needs. Allied Health Professionals Week is Nov. 7 through Nov. 13, and, in celebration of Colorado’s health care providers, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and the Community Collaboration of Healthcare Providers and Educators are sponsoring a seminar on Nov. 12 at the El Paso County Health Department Auditorium.

The seminar is targeted to medical assistants, medical administrative assistants; X-ray, emergency medical, medical lab, surgical and pharmacy technicians; and other non-nursing personnel.

Presenters will discuss issues related to poor performance and medical errors, office relations, good bedside manners, conflict resolution and the future of health care.

The seminar will be from 8 a.m. to noon. Call 667-3714 to reserve a space.

Kaiser Colorado helmsman chooses another vessel

Kaiser Permanente President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Binkley is sailing on after 24 years – the last five plus as the captain of the largest nonprofit private health care provider in Colorado. In an October news release, Binkley said, “I’m proud I can hand to my successor a region that is well positioned to continue to thrive in the marketplace.”

As soon as a replacement is found, Binkley will continue working with Kaiser’s national health plan in areas including union bargaining, a new electronic medical records system and membership growth.

Mayor Rivera supports local hospice

It’s a group that celebrates life and the end of life. It’s a group of people who foster advocacy, comfort and support for those facing life-limiting illnesses. In recognition of those caregivers and the organization behind them, Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera will sign a proclamation endorsing the month of November as National Hospice Month. Friends of Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care are invited to join Rivera, Pikes Peak Hospice Chief Executive Officer Martha Barton and hospice board members at 4 p.m. on Nov. 1 at 107 No. Nevada Ave., suite 300.

Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care has been delivering, according to its mission statement, “the right care, in the right place, at the right time” in El Paso County since 1980.

Dr. Susan McMaster, receives physician award

The Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary in October with a volunteer appreciation dinner at the Cliff House in Manitou Springs. The foundation provides medical education and training, lifestyle management for the prevention of disease and general medical care to meet the community needs.

More than 70 people attended the event, where local osteopathic physicians were recognized for their commitment to health care. Dr. Susan McMaster received the “physician of the year” award for her work with foundation interns and residents. Dr. Michelle Reed was the foundation’s choice as the “senior care provider of the year” and local attorneys, Lindsey Fischer and Thomas Berg, were recognize
d for their leadership abilities and commitment and service to the foundation.

Marylou Doehrman’s health care column will appear in the Business Journal every other week. She can be reached at 634-3223, ext. 210, or by e-mail at