Hospital fundraiser starts phone campaign

And you thought house calls were a thing of the past in the health care world.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital volunteers will be kicking off the latest phase of LMH’s $8 million fundraising campaign by calling more than 500 people today through Thursday.

“We unfortunately can’t see everyone one-on-one, so we think talking with them via the telephone is the next best thing,” said Kathy Clausing, LMH chief development officer.

The calling efforts are part of the hospital’s goal to raise about $8 million through the private sector to help fund about $50 million worth of expansion that will include a new emergency room, additional private patient rooms, an increase in the number of birthing rooms, improvements to the intensive care unit and major upgrades to the hospital’s surgery suites.

Several physicians in the community said the calls from hospital volunteers would be worth taking.

“I can’t think of a better place for people to give their money to than to their community hospital,” said Dr. Mark Praeger, who also serves on the hospital’s board of trustees.

Doctors said the hospital expansion is focused on improving patient care.

“It is everything you can imagine in terms of improvement,” Dr. Scott Robinson, director of the emergency department, said about plans to move and expand the emergency department. “It is going to be more comfortable for patients, it is going to be safer for patients and it is going to be more accepting of the higher patient levels we see.”

Robinson said patients would notice larger waiting rooms, an ambulance bay separate from the entrance for the general public, and more rooms to separate patients that may have dangerous biohazard infections or other highly contagious conditions.

By moving from the north end of the building to a spot along Maine Street on the eastern side of the building, the department also will become more visible to the public.

Praeger, who is a surgeon in the community, said larger and more technologically advanced surgery suites will be an improvement in the community’s health care. But he said the largest improvement may be that the expansion will allow the hospital to eliminate all its semi-private rooms and replace them with private rooms. That’s a needed change to stop the hospital from falling behind what is offered in the Kansas City area.

“Our hospital basically is a small fish in a big pond,” Praeger said. “We’re surrounded by competitors, and I don’t think a lot of people understand how competitive health care has become. In order to succeed, we have to get patients to come to the hospital because it is their revenue that supports the hospital.”

LMH is owned by the city, but it does not receive any tax dollars from the city.

Thus far, the fundraising drive is going well, Clausing said. The LMH Endowment Assn. has raised $5.76 million, and thus far it has only sought donations from community leaders, hospital employees and the physician community. In addition to the 500 or more telephone calls that will be made over the next several days, members of the campaign’s Community Division are expected to talk to about 800 people before the campaign ends this year. The hospital likely also will do a mailing to members of the general public seeking donations this winter.

Construction on the beginning phases of the expansion is expected to begin this fall. The entire expansion is expected to be completed in about three years.

“What we’re telling people is that there is an urgency that is becoming associated with it,” Clausing said of the campaign, which is allowing people to make pledges that can be paid over a five-year period. “If you’ve been thinking about doing it, the sooner you can do it, the better.”