St. Luke Hospital expands physical therapy

Staff reporter

Much needed expansion was approved Nov. 27 for the physical therapy department at St. Luke Hospital.

The board of directors of Marion County Hospital District #1 approved the use of two hospital rooms for additional space for physical therapy.

Hospital administrator Jeremy Armstrong reported patients have been referred to other facilities because therapists have not been able to schedule the patients' therapy in the necessary time frame.

It was determined that the existing space used for physical therapy cannot be expanded. Therefore two inpatient rooms will be converted into a second treatment room.

With that additional room, another physical therapist will have to be hired. RehabVisions, the physical therapy management company that currently hires physical therapy personnel, has been instructed to recruit another therapist. Armstrong said revenue would immediately increase with the hiring of a second physical therapist.

The expansion is not a budgeted item but Armstrong said the cost for remodeling would be minimal because maintenance staff would be able to perform the work.

It would take seven to 10 days to complete.

With the reduction of two inpatient rooms, Armstrong said the hospital would lose $1,500 per year if the hospital was at capacity with patients but would more than make up for the loss with increased revenue from physical therapy. The hospital still would be licensed for 22 beds.

Equipment costs for the additional therapy room could cost between $5,000 and $6,000, Armstrong said, which can be financed. St. Luke Foundation has funds earmarked for physical therapy equipment.

It was agreed that this was a short-term solution.

Board member Ken Vinduska asked if another two inpatient rooms could be used and double the space of the new physical therapy area. Armstrong said there would be costs involved with that and it could take too many beds out of commission.

Board member Bruce Skiles asked if the remodeling could wait until the second physical therapist is hired. Armstrong said RehabVisions may want the hospital to complete the room before they hire a physical therapist.

The expansion was approved but not until a second physical therapist has been hired.

The cost of the remodeling was estimated at $5,000 or less.

In other business:

— The board approved the purchase of a new cardiac monitor and treadmill for $16,403.

Nursing director Linda Kannady reported that the present equipment was more than 15 years old and was becoming obsolete to repair. Although the equipment still was working, concerns were expressed about being able to purchase paper for the cardiac readout and repairs if it were to break down.

Kannady said if the unit were to break down, it would have to be sent out for repair, leaving the hospital without any of that testing equipment.

With the new equipment, tests could be saved as a PDF (portable document format) and e-mailed to referring physicians, or electronically attached to medical records. Tests also could be written to CDs for archiving.

The software will allow physicians to "freeze frame" a 10-second strip of information to review as needed.

Hospital personnel perform three tread mill tests per week and is reimbursed $900 per test by Medicare and $1,600 per test by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

— A request was made to purchase a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) for $86,900 but that decision was tabled until the next meeting. There was $70,000 budgeted for the purchase.

— Chief financial officer Hilary Dolbee reported the hospital had lost $20,189 in October. There was an increase of eight percent for inpatients, and a four percent increase for outpatient services. Home health revenue decreased 22 percent.

Overall expenses were five percent over budget. A meeting is planned with department heads to figure out why there was an overrun.

Surgery activity has increased from last year with Dr. Clayton Fetsch completing his first year. Laboratory and radiology also was up 20 percent from the previous year.

— Armstrong reported the hospital clinic should be finished by the Dec. 14 deadline.

— Marty Ekrem, president of Via Christi Solutions, gave a presentation about services his agency offered.

— Credentials were approved for Michael Reeh, M.D., family medicine; Stephen Knecht, M.D., radiology; and Juanita Bittle, PA-C, family medicine.