Sanford invests in equipment, improvements, more

WORTHINGTON -- There were some significant investments and improvements promised upon the purchase of Worthington Regional Hospital by Sanford Health back in 2008.

Shown is a digital mammorgraphy room at Sanford Worthington Medical Center. (Submitted Photo)

WORTHINGTON - There were some significant investments and improvements promised upon the purchase of Worthington Regional Hospital by Sanford Health back in 2008.

Now, five years later, Sanford Worthington Medical Center is being transformed into a regional hub for health care.

“Sanford - through plant infrastructure, the purchase of equipment, aesthetic improvements and more - has invested $8.3 million in this location since July 2008,” SWMC COO Jeff Rotert said.

One of the biggest projects within that $8.3 million was an expenditure of $2.5 million to look at Sanford’s physical facilities in Worthington. With growth occurring rapidly at Sanford Worthington Clinic on Diagonal Road, officials saw the time was right to make some changes. The decision was made to move both the OB/GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) clinic and general surgery to the SWMC site.

“That freed up some much-needed space at the clinic for expansion,” Rotert said.


“We had added pediatricians and with the addition of family medicine physicians, we simply needed the space for the primary care providers,” Sanford Worthington Clinic Manager Greg Shell added.

“When the remodeling was done –- it was completed just about a year ago now - in order to better accommodate our pediatric population, we were fortunate to obtain some materials from Sanford Children’s Hospital,” Shell continued. “From furniture ... and the selection of very vibrant colors to paint the rooms, that area has been designed very much with children in mind.”

“If a child has experienced care in the Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, there is some similarity in visual appearance that we feel is beneficial to that child and increases comfort level,” Rotert said.

With regard to the pediatrics patient room at SWMC, specific improvements have been made thanks to the fundraising assistance of the Hospital Auxiliary.

“The Auxiliary has been very generous in many ways,” Rotert said. “Kudos to them.”

The hospital itself deserves kudos for giving attention to nearly every area in some way. The $2.5 million expenditure was split into phases - the first being the completion of the new OB/GYN clinic area that required the relocation of administration. The OB/GYN clinic transitioned from Diagonal Road to SWMC in 2011.

The surgery clinic (which also includes our outreach clinic and our acute care walk-in clinic), located on the first floor at SWMC, was transformed from a five-room clinic into a 10-room clinic. The subsequent second phase involved same-day surgery, Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Weg said. That took that area from six semi-private rooms in same-day surgery to eight private rooms.

“The primary focus of this whole project was same-day surgery, and to create much more privacy,” Weg added.


Meanwhile, in medical-surgical, virtually everything was touched. Among the most significant changes: creation of a special pediatrics room as well as a negative pressure/solution room, expansion of the medication room, updating of the nursing station and installation of a new HVAC system.

“That was probably the biggest project,” Weg said. “The staff did a great job in terms of seeing through what we’d have, and our patients and staff are now seeing the benefits.”

“The intent was to move infusion earlier than we did, but we elected to wait until once med-surg (medical-surgical) was done,” Weg explained. “It was about responsiveness as well as future patients. Outpatient nursing is a growing area in our infusion center ... and we’re now at capacity and have a nice environment to provide that care”

As improvements continued at the hospital, there was also plenty going on at the clinic.

“The clinic was built in 1999, so it had been some 13 years since it had been touched,” Shell detailed. “The decision was made to make visual improvements by replacing the carpets, and we installed a new registration desk area to improve privacy for patients and to accommodate additional registration staff. We have all new wall coverings, plenty of painting was done and, of course, there was the remodeling of the peds wing, as well.”

The relocation of the OB unit to SWMC has resulted in multiple efficiencies and helped create a campus-like environment at the hospital. The OB move made changes at the clinic possible and transformed the type of care at the hospital.

“The Radiology department also experienced growth with the biggest project of the in-house digital mammography equipment, with $350,000 provided by a grant and another $100,000 spent in making the facility state-of-the-art,” Rotert said, adding that corridors and waiting areas were also updated for patient convenience.

Additionally, there has been a notable enhancement in SWMC’s providing of advanced life support services.


“We now employ paramedics that can begin offering more interventions as soon as they arrive at the scene of a medical emergency,” Weg explained. “That required a lot of designing, planning, requests and approval from the state of Minnesota.

“It’s an extension of the emergency department …. . There were six employed EMTs that went for further education and training in order to provide this service who are now employed at a different level,” Weg added. “That does tie to a strong emergency department and with our employed physician, Dr. Fedko, whose specialty is emergency services.”

“That’s unique, because not every physician that works in ER is specifically emergency-trained, but he did his residency at Mayo in emergency care,” noted Hammer of Fedko, who joined SWMC in July.

Technology has also been a key component in bolstering emergency medical services. Electronic charting and the addition of status boards allow for the easy monitoring of patients, so it’s easy for all medical personnel involved to see where a patient is in their care.

“One of the goals of this is to get patients admitted and discharged from ED (emergency department) as timely as possible,” Hammer said.

Also making better care possible is SWMC’s recent medical home certification. Medical home, Shell explained, is a patient-centered approach to the delivery of health care that involves the patient, the primary care provider, RN health coaches, and possibly a specialty provider as well as a pharmacy element. Health coaches provide access as well as education and are able to communicate the availability of such patient and family needs as community, financial and medical resources. There are approximately 290 people enrolled in the medical home program at this time.

“It tends to be more chronic conditions the patients have, though it’s not mandatory,” Shell said of medical home enrollees. “A person can enroll just to have enhanced access to their health care team. Referrals tend to be those struggling with a chronic health condition, or have multiple chronic conditions.

“We feel improvement in our quality scores is due to the involvement of health coaches,” Shell went on. “Health coaches have been trained in motivational interviewing so that if a patient is put on a weight-loss program, for example, and struggling on following through with it … they can help that patient establish goals and objectives. The coaches are very approachable, and very open to being contacted by patients.”


Of course, some patients have an added obstacle in communicating the type of care needs they may have - that of a language barrier. SWMC, however, now has MARTTI, a mobile device that links with a service providing access to translation of up to 200 different languages. While the device isn’t intended to fully replace in-person translation - that’s available at the facility as well - it is often helpful, particularly when time is of the essence.

Innovations such as One Chart (electronic medical record) and PACS (radiology) are other new technology enhancements, and robotics is also part of the 21st-century health care equation.

“The OB/GYN department and surgery department now have the use of robotics - for obstetrical surgery that allows for increased visualization and dexterity than in laparoscopic surgery,” Weg said. “Currently, we’re doing hysterectomies and related GYN procedures.”

A total of $3.6 million of the $8.2 million invested at SWMC is in equipment, noted Rotert. About $3 million has been spent on remodeling, while the the remainder has gone for improved infrastructure and information technology.

“With these investments in emergency services, the investment in robotics and the focusing on development of these services - as well as a primary care expansion and surgical and pediatric development - we want to become a regional resource offering a certain level of service not common in smaller communities,” Hammer said. “It’s about enhancing the patient- and family-centered care that we provide.”

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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