Leaders with Lawrence Memorial Hospital said it probably will be this summer before the hospital decides whether it wants to open a wellness center in the city’s proposed $25 million recreation center.
“It is still very much a work in progress for us,” LMH CEO Gene Meyer said Wednesday.
The hospital’s board of trustees briefly considered the project at their meeting on Wednesday, but did not have a serious discussion on whether to move forward with occupying about 7,000 square feet of space in the center, which is proposed for a site at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
Karen Shumate, chief operating officer for LMH, said the plan now is for the hospital to convene a group of physicians and medical providers to get more feedback on what could be included in a wellness center.
Last September, board members were briefed on a concept for a wellness center that would include:
• Physical, occupational and speech therapy services.
• Diet and exercise classes.
• One-on-one wellness coaching.
• Sports performance enhancement programs.
• Various screenings.
The concept included a particular focus on the elderly and pediatric services. Shumate said the concept may still be applicable, but the hospital wants to hear more from providers.
“We want to be careful that we don’t duplicate what exists in Lawrence,” Meyer said.
The hospital also has to consider whether the center would produce any revenue. The changing Medicare environment has included changes to reimbursement policies for therapy services.
“I don’t know how our board will commit to this,” Meyer said. “There has been good discussion about it both ways. We’re not quite there yet.”
City officials have said they do not expect the hospital to make a decision on the wellness center prior to the city accepting bids on the 181,000-square-foot recreation center. Those bids could be accepted in late April.
In other news from Wednesday’s LMH board meeting:
• Board members were told the hospital soon will begin offering “bladeless” cataract surgery. A new piece of equipment will allow area opthamologists to use a laser device to remove cataracts. Currently, such laser procedures aren’t done in Lawrence, said Janice Early, the hospital’s director of community relations. Procedures are expected to begin by early March.
• The hospital has begun performing surgeries with its new $2.1 million robotic surgery system.
The hospital began using the new da Vinci surgery system two weeks ago for procedures such as hysterectomies, prostate and kidney surgeries, and certain types of urological procedures.
The system uses small mechanical arms equipped with surgical tools. The arms can be inserted into small incisions just a few centimeters long. A surgeon controls the arms remotely.
“The surgeon sits at a video console in the operating room and really doesn’t touch the patient,” Early said.
The system is designed to reduce the recovery time and lessen the amount of pain associated with surgical wounds.
Currently, there are three surgeons in Lawrence trained on the system, and three more have expressed an interest in receiving training.
• Board members unanimously approved a new charity care policy for the hospital. The board was briefed on the policy at last month’s meeting. The new policy calls for anybody who applies for charity care to pay minimum fees for service at the hospital. They include $250 for an inpatient hospital stay, $50 for an emergency room visit and $20 for an outpatient visit.
The policy does raise the amount of money an individual or household can make and still qualify for charity care. The old policy required an individual or household to be at or below the federal poverty level — which was about $23,000 for a family of four in 2012 — to qualify for the full benefits of charity care. The new policy allows people at 150 percent of the federal poverty level — about $34,500 for a family of four — to qualify.