Community Hospitals Add Services to Keep Medical Visits Local
By MELECIO FRANCO Houston Community Newspapers
Local hospitals in Liberty County are providing additional medical services so that residents won’t have to travel to other areas for medical care.
Gene Schuler, chief executive officer of the Cleveland Regional Medical Center and Vicki Gates, CEO of the Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center, recently discussed some of the actions their facilities are taking in order to offer services close to home so patients won’t have to drive to other areas such as Humble or Baytown.
The hospitals are unaffiliated with each other, but both face similar situations. They are located in rural areas and face competition from hospitals located outside the county which previously provided services that they didn’t. The hospitals are working to reverse that by bringing services that weren’t available and providing them locally.
“We will try to implement programs to keep people in the community,” said Schuler, speaking about his hospital.
He explained that the Cleveland RMC is actively adding and planning to add services over the next several months.
For example, the hospital has plans to install an inpatient dialysis facility. Schuler explained that this would prevent patients from having to be transferred to another facility for treatment. He said that the goal of the hospital is to exceed the needs of patients by offering programs that benefit the community.
“People, ideally, want to be able to go to their community hospital and get all the services they want,” said Schuler.
Now that the facility is owned by a smaller company, Schuler said that the hospital can be more flexible in its operations.
The hospital has been successful in recruiting family primary care doctors that will start in late January. Two doctors will be onsite to give patients more access to primary care.
“The number-one need is an orthopedic doctor,” said Schuler. “We are looking to engage and recruit a full-time orthopedic physician.”
Such a physician would be able to address issues such as broken arms, noses and hip replacements.
The hospital has recently contracted with a company to provide mammograms. Schuler said that they plan for the services to be available in approximately 60 days.
“This is a top priority for our hospital and our community,” said Schuler.
The hospital will also consider offering geriatric psychiatric services. This could involve 10 to 14 beds for patients.
Other possible services include a catheterization lab for cardiologists and oncology services for patients to receive chemotherapy.
The biggest change for the Cleveland RMC is a 25-percent drop in service charge costs.
“There is a perception that our charges are high and I agree,” said Schuler. “They are too high.”
The drop in prices will make medical services more affordable for patients.
Schuler explained that the hospital tries listen to the community when they make suggestions for services or changes needed. In response to requests, the hospital now offers private rooms for patients. The hospital will also soon purchase sleeper couches for family members to be able to stay overnight with patients in their rooms.
In March, Liberty-Dayton RMC brought in physicians in the emergency room on a 24-hour basis. This allows a wide range of diagnosis and treatments to be available to patients continuously.
The hospital has also added endoscopic surgery and colonoscopies. These procedures now allow patients to receive treatment without traveling far from home.
Ultrasounds are also available 24-hours a day in Liberty. While some services are now continuously available, other much needed services have been brought in on a limited basis.
A mobile unit now provides MRIs and, through a partnership with The Rose in Houston, mammograms are now available in Liberty.
Gates said that these services were added to make more medical care available to residents.
The Cleveland hospital also plans to add in January a fast-track system with a nurse practitioner that will help patients that do not need ER care. Schuler said that the goal is to get patients help within 30 minutes. The service will be available from 4 p.m. to midnight, which Schuler said is the busiest time frame for the ER.
Both Liberty County hospitals have made numerous changes and are planning to provide more local services for residents in the future. The changes are expected to improve treatment options and improve perceptions of the facilities.
“If you’ve had a bad experience before, please come back and try us again,” said Schuler. “See if we have improved.”
Contact: Melecio C. Franco | Data Editor | 281-592-2626