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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 3:40 p.m.
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Mercy to convert hospital to outpatient surgery center

By Wayne Bryan

This article was published December 9, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.

tom-pelton-and-dr-jeffery-tauth-perform-a-cardiac-catheterization-procedure-in-the-heart-and-vascular-center-at-st-josephs-mercy-health-center-in-hot-springs

Tom Pelton and Dr. Jeffery Tauth perform a cardiac catheterization procedure in the Heart and Vascular Center at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs.

— Officials at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center in Hot Springs said they want to make the nearby HealthPark hospital into an outpatient surgery center.

St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System acquired the HealthFirst Physicians Group and its 62,000-square-foot, 20-bed HealthPark hospital and adjacent medical office building after a merger of the two companies in July.

Tim Johnsen, president of St. Joseph’s Mercy in Hot Springs, said the company will ask the Arkansas Department of Health to change the license for the HealthPark facility in order to expand St. Joseph’s Mercy services and reduce costs.

“As technology improves, the time period of inpatient hospital stays decreases and the need for outpatient visits increases. We need that facility to serve in that role,” Johnsen said. “HealthPark is licensed as an acute-care facility and is open 24/7. Based on those requirements, we have to have a staff in the emergency department the entire time.”

If the hospital is changed to an outpatient surgery facility, there will be no requirements for an emergency department or 24-hour operations, Johnsen said.

“With a well-staffed, well-equipped emergency department a couple of hundred yards away, that is just duplicate services,” he said.

Both HealthPark and St. Joseph’s Mercy are on Higdon Ferry Road in Hot Springs, separated by U.S 70/270.

The HealthPark hospital has an average daily population of only five patients, according to a statement issued by St. Joseph’s Mercy Health System. That small number of patients could easily be integrated into the hospital population at the 309-bed St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center, Johnsen said.

“This means the outpatient surgery center would be open from about 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, instead of operating all the time with expensive emergency doctors, nurses and equipment,” said Jeffery Slatton, a spokesman for St. Joseph’s Mercy.

“Patients whose surgery requires a longer hospital stay will be [treated] at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, right across the street.”

The change would also save St. Joseph’s Mercy the expense of an extensive upgrade of imaging systems and other equipment changes by turning the HealthPark Hospital into an outpatient center.

Johnsen said the changes at both facilities in Hot Springs will give patients better service.

The operating rooms at St. Joseph’s larger health center would focus on trauma and more critically ill or injured patients. That would allow outpatient surgeries to stay closer to their intended schedules and would not be delayed for hours by serious emergency operations.

“If we’ve got them in two separate facilities,” Johnsen said, “you’re going to be more on time and have a better experience.”

All surgery patients whose condition would unexpectedly require overnight hospitalization would be taken to St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center, Johnsen said.

“For the last three years, even before we merged, if they had a patient at HealthPark that became too ill, post-surgery, and needed intensive care, they were transported to St. Joseph Mercy,” Johnsen said.

Changing the roles of the HealthPark facility to an outpatient surgery center would affect the makeup of the staff. However, Johnsen said, the company would expect to absorb more than 98 percent of the workers between the new facilities.

“If employees are open to moving positions over here, we can absorb the majority of the positions,” Johnsen said. “That doesn’t make it easy on some of those co-workers, but when we look at the positions that would be affected over there — for instance, a night-shift nurse — there are night-shift nurse positions open over here, and we hope they come over.”

Johnsen called the licensing move “a big positive” for the community.

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