Ark City Hospital Celebrates First Anniversary

March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day represents many different things for many different people. For the staff of South Central Kansas Medical Center, March 17th is a special day for a completely different reason. It was on that date in 2011 that the medical center received their first patients at the new facility.

It took close to two decades for the replacement facility project to go from concept to reality. During that time the plan underwent multiple changes of ownership structure, financing options, and facility design. In the end, the facility remained a "quasi-municipal" entity, connected to the City of Arkansas City in both its ownership and funding for the project.

Steve Perkins, SCKMC's CEO, acknowledges what has been accomplished through the move, but continues to look for ways to improve upon services.

"We all realize we would not be here today if not for the support of our local community. Our investment in the future of the Cowley community is significant. We want to provide a level of care and service that will reduce the need for people here to travel greater distances," Perkins said.

Perkins continued by reporting how the staff demonstrated "dedication and hard work improving the organization" when the hospital concluded three deficiency-free inspections in August. However, he emphasized that SCKMC is continuing to look for ways to enhance their programs and delivery of care. Team leaders are encouraged to consider how programs can be improved or new ones developed that will meet community need. And according to Perkins, facility leadership is engaging the staff in what he calls, "setting and reaching higher standards."

One of the departments most improved by the move to a new facility has been radiology. The department features six new pieces of equipment, most notably the high field open MRI. The "open" design is the only in Cowley County and is intended to help alleviate the claustrophobic feelings often associated with MRI exams.

"We are now able to service a wide range of customers due to our open MRI format. The wider opening makes people feel more at home, and the room has a window so it feels larger as well," said Candy Allen, SCKMC's Radiology Department Team Leader.

Allen reported a 60-70% increase in the number of MRI's performed over the past year. Some of which she attributes to the recent addition of Saturday appointments for certain radiology exams.

"On select Saturdays we have ultrasound, MRI, and CT appointments available. Patients can check availability and schedule through their family physician," said Allen.

While the addition of new equipment has proven to be beneficial for departments, such as radiology, other departments attribute the facility's design to their ability to provide improved care.

"We have a lot better flow for our surgery department now that we have integrated same day surgery," said Kim Clift, SCKMC's Surgery Department Team Leader.

"The design has allowed us to improve patient teaching and care. Doctors can see their patients and talk with their families easier now. Our patients have a lot better understanding of what everyone does," Clift said.

SCKMC had a record breaking year in 2011 with almost 1200 surgeries and 535 endoscopic procedures performed, a number they hope to surpass this year with additional procedures in areas such as urology, wound care/plastic surgery, bariatrics, and gynecology.

"As we begin our second year here, we are excited that we will be having expanded services in the community with a new OB/GYN and a Family Physician at Ark City Clinic. That combined with the recent addition of wound care/plastic surgeon Jeremy Tamir, MD will allow us to increase our services," said Perkins.

The new OB/GYN, along with Dr. Blatchford, general surgery and Dr. Siwek, orthopedic surgery, will have a permanent office within the other building raised during the hospital's construction, the outpatient services building (OSB).

With the hospital and OSB in place on the 168 acres referred to as Patterson Parkway, attention is now being turned to collaborating with the City of Arkansas City to find others who would like to be on that site. Additional medical facilities, senior housing, a hotel and other operations are possible additions within the property's master plan. Perkins said that all leads for development will be pursued to see if they fit and can be accomplished.

"We're far from finished building a future of excellence," Perkins said.

Photo: South Central Kansas Medical Center staff celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of the new hospital.