By Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal
At least once or twice a year, I believe it helps our community to get an overview of what’s happening at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital (HCH), because we’re far from a static facility and organization. There’s always growth and change happening, because we must adapt to the changing needs of our patients, as well as changes in healthcare.
In order to review the current state of the hospital, it’s important to understand that our present strength and stability and our status as an HCA Healthcare hospital are tightly interwoven. That said, I can share that the support of HCA Healthcare has brought a multitude of enhancements to the hospital that benefit patients directly, improve our hospital’s infrastructure, and better our operations, which includes systems that maximize efficiency, safety, and overall quality of care. Medical and administrative technology and supply management also fall under this umbrella.
The improvements I’ll discuss represent an investment of a total of $8.2 million on HCA Healthcare’s part during 2020 and to date in 2021. In addition to our Surgical Suite renovations that I discussed last month, we can now offer 3D mammograms, the screening’s “gold standard,” and a new Digital Radiology Suite to our patients.
Additional capital improvements include those that add efficiency and speed, like a system to boost cell phone reception in the building and a pneumatic tube system that enables transfer of lab specimens between our Emergency Department and Lab, whose construction and installation is set to begin in August.
We have also invested to support our nurses. We were able to purchase a mannequin that can be used for broad experiential educational purposes, and two ultrasound machines — one is for supporting nursing ability to start IVs by highlighting patients’ veins, and the other is for assessing patients for urinary bladder retention, which can prevent infections.
In order to remain able to deliver the best care, a hospital can’t overlook spending on infrastructure, either. We have been able to invest in updating our elevators and for an update to our alarm system. Since air quality is pivotal in hospitals and especially in patient rooms and surgical suites, we were able to replace our air quality and vacuum systems, and a significant upgrade to our air handler and boiler. Finally, we installed an improved electrical power system upgrade. These investments ensure safety for patients and staff, including during those times when we experience a power outage.
When we discuss hospital operations, we’re talking about certain administrative, financial, and quality improvement aspects of how the hospital is run that affect efficiency, which in turn ultimately impact patient safety and quality of care. Examples of these types of enhancements include optimized, shortened Emergency Department wait times, and applying best practices for stroke, sepsis, and heart attack care by consulting with HCA Healthcare experts about all of our operations. In regards to COVID-19, HCA Healthcare assured we had ample supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and that we could offer quarantine pay to our team members when unable to work due to Covid-19, allowing them to save their vacation time. They also kept us abreast of the most up-to-date treatment protocols.
Another reality that developed since I wrote last month’s column is the alarming upsurge in COVID-19 — specifically the highly contagious Delta variant. I urge any members of our community who have not gotten vaccinated to do so. This is the best way to turn the tide on this disease and stop us from revisiting the winter of 2020. The vaccine is safe, tested, and easy to get.
We also need to intensify our efforts regarding the 3 Ws. Stay conscientious about washing your hands frequently, staying at least six feet from people, and wearing your mask to protect others and yourself. While vaccinations are the most effective, masking is the quickest step to stop the spread. Keep in mind, it can take up to 6 weeks for you to have protection from Covid-19 if you were vaccinated today. If everyone masked, we would have protection immediately.
We are dedicated to offering the best care possible at HCH as always, and we can all play an important part in quelling this pandemic.
Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.