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Archive for Monday, March 9, 1998

S VITAL SIGNS RECORDED

March 9, 1998

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Lawrence Memorial Hospital administrators are inviting residents to a Wednesday night reception to take a look at the past -- and hear about the future -- of the hospital.

If the first few months of 1997 were an indication of how the year would be for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, things did not look too rosy.

In mid-January, then-Chief Executive Officer and President Robert Ohlen announced his decision to resign after guiding the hospital for 18 years. Less than a month later, hospital chain Columbia-HCA Healthcare Corp. filed a civil lawsuit in Douglas County District Court, asking that the city planning board's rejection of a permit to build a second hospital at Sixth Street and Folks Road be overturned.

The lawsuit continues, but Ohlen's replacement, Gene Meyer, wants to tell Lawrence residents and leaders about the strides the hospital made in 1997 and what challenges LMH still faces.

The hospital is sponsoring a reception to unveil its 1997 annual report on Wednesday, beginning with a social hour at 5 p.m. and speakers at 6 p.m. in the LMH auditorium. Meyer, LMH board chairman Ray Davis and Mayor Bonnie Augustine will talk about the hospital's past, present and future.

``We feel it's important that we give an annual report to the community, so the community is aware what we're doing,'' said Meyer, who started with the hospital in June.

Through tours, the hospital staff will introduce 1997 improvement projects at the hospital, including a renovation of the radiology and emergency areas. The birthing rooms also were revamped recently, along with accounting and human resources departments.

Since his arrival, Meyer has pushed members of the nine-member board, which makes purchasing, policy and personnel decisions for the hospital, to keep up-to-date with the changing health care industry. Media-clip files chart everything from legislative changes to philosophical changes in how patients receive and pay for hospital services, and Meyer takes time at each monthly meeting to talk about state and national happenings in the health care scene.

New committees concerning facilities, planning and human resources have been established and report to the board each month.

``We're hoping the board committees will allow board members to spend more concentrated time with management in looking at issues and getting a better understanding of some of the complexities of the health care industry,'' Meyer said.

The year ahead

Construction at LMH will continue with the expansion of the radiology department to house a Magnetic Resonance Imaging system, and the second floor nurse stations and patient rooms will be renovated. The Intensive Care Unit also will be renovated.

``We've heard suggestions in the past by members of the community that as wonderful as our atrium, lobby and gift shop are, there is a continued concern that we also develop the inpatient rooms to bring them up-to-date aesthetically,'' Meyer said.

At its February meeting, the board voted to spend more than $2.5 million to lease a new computer system and software to overhaul billing, accounting and payroll functions, and a new computerized patient bedside documentation system also is being installed.

Hospital administrators also will continue to look at the feasibility of starting an ambulatory surgical center in Lawrence, a possibility that was discussed at a 1997 board meeting.

Meyer emphasizes that continuously analyzing the hospital's future is critical -- even more so as decisions need to be made and enacted sooner because of changing legislation and the way health care is delivered through managed plans.

``Historically, health care organizations have done planning in three- to five-year time frames, and I'll tell you, that's out the window anymore,'' Meyer said. ``Our industry is changing too rapidly, and our strategic planning life cycle is more in the 18-month time frame than the three- to five-year time frame.''

On April 18, board members will spend four hours hashing out priorities to cover the next year and a half at LMH, covering issues from possible program expansions to other health-related companies that are already building in Lawrence or are planning to build.

``Our environment is changing so quickly that if we were tied to a bureaucratic way of making critical decisions, we're going to be left behind,'' Meyer said. ``You want to develop urgency, but you want to make the decision for the right reasons, and what I'm concerned about is that we can't take a year to make a decision about something.''

Board Chairman Ray Davis will talk about the upcoming Douglas County Community Health Improvement Project (CHIP), which will begin Sunday with a telephone survey concerning health practices and daily living habits. The results from the random survey will help CHIP representatives to determine priorities in the county.

Davis said Wednesday's reception is part of the hospital's effort to ``be more open and closer with the community we serve.''

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is koger@ljworld.com.

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