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Sanford Worthington hospital part of regional system

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a five-part series examining multiple changes and improvements at Sanford Worthington Medical Center since its purchase by Sanford Health five years ago.

WORTHINGTON — In the five years since Worthington Regional Hospital became Sanford Worthington Medical Center (SWMC), the healthcare facility has changed in multiple ways that would have been difficult without its purchase by Sanford Health.

“The first thing that’s significant is that this hospital is part of a system,” explained Randy Anderson, a vice president of the Sanford Health Network who is responsible for the operation of SWMC and similar facilities. “Being part of a system allows you to access a lot of different resources, and a lot of people who specialize in certain areas — not only with doctors, but areas like medical records, quality assurance, human resources, compliance issues and risk management. When you’re a stand-alone facility, you just don’t have those resources to call upon.”

Anderson added that Sanford Health’s large advocacy program provides its facilities with “a voice at the table with legislators that they normally wouldn’t have if they were stand-alone.” Being able to have a voice on state and national legislative issues is a “really big deal,” he said.

Additionally, SWMC administration and staff have greater access to expertise on any number of healthcare issues.

“Systems develop protocols and standards of practice, and you get the best thinking when you work together as a system,” SWMC CEO Mike Hammer said. “Sanford in Sioux Falls has six centers of excellence, which means they’ve really invested in the best practice there is to offer. For example, our oncology unit here has been developed in large collaboration with Sanford in Sioux Falls.

“With OB as another example ... in a situation where you only have a limited number of providers, and every once in a while you need access to additional providers for call,” Hammer continued. “Regionally, being part of a system, you begin to talk about what we can do together. We can manage resources together to meet needs of multiple communities. A practical example would be physical therapy — Jackson needed a little bit more PT, but not enough to recruit somebody, and we needed a little bit, too, so we combine those needs together.”

That sort of combination of resources helps make possible a program like Same Day at Sanford, which allows patients additional opportunities to make medical appointments.

“Sanford is large enough where it has a physician recruitment department,” Hammer said. “Sanford has a national name and draws candidates’ attention, and that’s different than when Worthington was going out to recruit on its own six years ago. Also, since as a system with a number of people being represented, physicians looking for practice opportunities will listen more to that than someone from an individual hospital.”

Just because Sanford is a large system, Hammer noted, doesn’t mean Worthington doesn’t maintain a bit of its own identity.

“Sanford has a marketing program that really brands each of its entities as part of a system,” Hammer said. “But Sanford will still let you customize according to your market. Our community has the opportunity to hear what is of most interest locally.”

One of the concerns at the time of Sanford’s purchase of Worthington Regional Hospital was physician recruitment, and a goal was set to meet a specific target of attracting new doctors. Anderson pointed out that goal has exceeded, as 10 new physicians in a variety of specialties have been recruited since 2008.

“I think it’s also real important for the community to know that additional monies have been put in as capital, in addition to the purchase of the hospital,” Anderson said. “We’re still working with what was promised (with the purchase of the hospital), and that the ultimate goal is to improve the health care in Worthington as we move forward.”

SWMC presents a periodic report to the city of Worthington as part of its continuing effort to demonstrate its commitment to the community — a commitment that is also demonstrated in other ways.

“Sanford continues to be a community partner, as well,” SWMC COO Jeff Rotert explained. “During the last five years Sanford has committed or paid about $750,000 to community projects –- the largest being $600,000 to the YMCA project.

“Additional gifts have been given to college to support some of the things being done there, and we’ve given gifts to the high school to support some of its facilities,” Rotert continued. “The largest of the gifts was an endowment through the sale of the hospital to start a regional healthcare foundation with a focus on improving health in the community. Sanford has been advocate for the community of Worthington and been a strong community partner in a variety of projects and initiatives.”

Moving forward, the plan is to continue demonstrating that level of commitment while continuing to expand health care options.

“We want to continue to grow the cancer center that became full service this past year,” Anderson said.

“We want to increasingly become a regional hub in Worthington for healthcare,” Hammer added. “We’re working closely with neighboring communities, and by doing so want to keep bringing people to town and contributing in that way to the economic health of the community.

“I think increasingly what’s to come will be a result of being part of Sanford, which has a vision to become a system that has national presence in terms of its size, expertise, and research and development. Worthington and any community involved with the Sanford system should be proud to be part of an evolving system of that quality.”

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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