Payson's hospital is not the one most longtime Rim country residents remember -- in fact, it probably is not even the same place people who visited it last year recall.
Throughout 2003, and continuing in 2004, the Payson Regional Medical Center added new buildings, remodeled many existing facilities, made upgrades in equipment and changes in services.
"We are doing more and more to provide quality care close to home," said Cory Houghton, marketing and senior programs director for PRMC.
Leading the drive to make PRMC a leading rural health care provider were the administrative team of CEO Chris Wolf, Missy Spencer, assistant CEO; Peter Finelli, chief financial officer; and Eunice Rech, chief nursing officer, Houghton said.
The team was assisted in those efforts by the more than 300 full- and part-time employees on the hospital's payroll.
In addition to the health care provided the community, PRMC paid out $1.25 million to 1,783 local businesses for goods and services.
Changes were made in a number of departments at PRMC to raise the level of care available to its clients.
The surgery department, under the direction of Donna Larby, performed 200 procedures per month in 2003. These procedures included general, orthopedic, obstetric-gynecology, Caesarean sections, urology, ear, nose and throat, cataracts, podiatry and radiology procedures.
The endoscopy unit pre-admissions process, thanks to some innovative thinking by lead RN Lynn Sommars, moved across the hall from the pre-op department. The department was kept quite busy performing about 200 procedures monthly.
"We have the best nurses in this department," Sommars said. "They're up, they're fun. We're all excited to come to work. Patients leave here saying, ‘I can't believe I had fun.' The people we see are all well, we're doing maintenance checks. They're not being cut or in pain."
A new therapeutic scope, for upper endoscopy to control bleeding from ulcers, was purchased for the unit.
Sommars said patients admitted to the hospital benefited from the change in nurse-to-patient ratios.
Nurses also were able to take advantage of educational opportunities to improve the care they deliver.
Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
Rehab services recently moved to a new location on East Main Street, next to Payson Healthcare.
"We love it," Director Andrew Wodka said. "It's absolutely wonderful. We have 4,000 square feet and an open gym for our clients. Everyone has their own space. We have a hydrotherapy room to do wound care. We're all excited about it and have had great feedback since opening in November."
Wodka added a new staff member, Mary Ann Graffagnio. Referrals increased by 20 percent in 2003.
Of special benefit for parents and guardians of local school children, Speech Therapist Amy Beier is offering free hearing screenings for youngsters.
In 2003, the hospital laboratory acquired new instrumentation that has increased the number of tests the lab can perform.
"We serve a large population of diabetic patients and now we can perform tests that previously had to be sent to our reference lab in Phoenix," said Janet O'Donnell, director of PRMC laboratory services. "Area physicians can now receive their results the same day. We are also able to do other tests that we had to send out before, so we are able to provide better service to all our clients."
Since December 2003, when the LabCorp draw station closed, the staff has also been serving the needs of LabCorp patients.
Director Colleen O'Connor and her staff of 22 serve homebound patients in the communities. Visits for 2003 totaled 7,930 and took the nurses to Punkin Center, Forest Lakes, Whispering Pines and every other community in Northern Gila County.
"We have an excellent staff," O'Connor said. "They're very caring and compassionate. We're all really happy to be part of the community and to provide a valuable service."
Patients received skilled nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, home health aide and medical social worker services. Payson Regional Home Health served 600 patients in 2003.
Family Birthing Center
PRMC offers a family birthing center under the direction of Deborah Vandal and staffed by qualified nurses who are committed to delivering care that includes personalized service from beginning to end of the birth process.
"The birthing center has topnotch perinatal nurses," Vandal said. "We provide excellent obstetrical services and newborn care. The staff strives for excellence."
Terri Vlahovich, RNC, received certification in obstetrics this year, demonstrating her commitment to high standards in perinatal care.
Lura Ryden, RN, received a commendation from the Arizona Heating Screening Program for her commitment to the program and her quality of data transmitted.
"It's really a great unit centered around the family and education," Vandal said. "I believe the quality of our physicians is the driving force for the growth of our unit this year."
The birthing center delivered 198 infants in 2003, compared to 169 in 2002. In fact 2003 saw a record number of births at the facility. For the most part, only two physicians, Cynthia Booth and David Cluff, were making the deliveries, Vandal said. More mothers-to-be are taking advantage of the benefits of having their babies close to home. PRMC also offers the "Tiny Toes" program for new mothers and their babies. Information may be obtained through most local physicians' offices.
More new services and changes are coming to Payson Regional Medical Center in 2004. More details on the progress of 2003 and what to expect in 2004 will be presented in a special publication in April.