Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE
St. Vincent’s Chilton will celebrate its one year anniversary in October.
In this first-year of operation, the hospital has exceeded expectations.
“St. Vincent’s Chilton is so pleased with how the community has embraced the new hospital allowing us to provide this quality care,” Suzannah Campbell, administrator of the facility, said. “Volumes in several areas have exceeded our expectations. We have seen more than 14,000 patients through our Emergency Department, conducted over 1,400 surgical/endoscopy cases and performed nearly 90,000 imaging and lab studies. It is important to us that Chilton County residents know how committed St. Vincent’s is to this community.”
While the hospital is not a trauma center, St. Vincent’s Chilton has been strategic in helping trauma patients.
“St. Vincent’s Chilton has received many trauma patients who required stabilization and treatment so they could safely be transferred to a trauma provider,” Campbell said. ” In addition, our surgeons have performed numerous complicated general surgical and orthopedic surgical cases with great success. We are excited to continue to expand our service offerings.”
The hospital has given local medical offices a place for patients to have x-rays and lab work done without leaving the county. St. Vincent’s Chilton has also supported the greater Chilton County medical community by providing office space leases for specialty doctors.
“At the current time, the following medical specialties are available at St. Vincent’s Chilton: Cardiology, Gastroenterology, General Surgery, Nephrology, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Podiatry, Pulmonology and Medical Oncology/Hematology,” Campbell said. “These services are offered in addition to our 24/7 Emergency Department, advanced imaging and diagnostic services, stress testing, pulmonary function testing, inpatient and intensive care services and laboratory services.”
The outpatient wing where many of these specialty doctors lease space is almost full.
Technology advances through telemedicine have helped St. Vincent’s Chilton provide a higher level of care for local stroke victims.
“St. Vincent’s Chilton now has telestroke capabilities in the Emergency Department that allows for real-time neurology consults for patients who are potentially suffering a stroke and further allows Emergency Department physicians’ clinical consultation resources to administer tPA (tissue plasminogen activator),” Campbell said. “This means patients need not travel all the way to Birmingham for stroke care when time is critical. In the coming months, we hope to expand our telehealth capabilities to encompass even more consulting services.”
Looking back on the first year, Campbell said she is proud of what the team has accomplished.
“Opening a new hospital is no small feat, but everyone pitched in and worked hard to ensure we were ready to provide care to this community,” Campbell said.
Director of Surgical Services Greer Ketchum said the first year “has gone great.” She said many of the employees live in Chilton County, and it makes the hospital feel more like a family.
“One of our busiest days was probably our most successful because … there were no glitches on that day and it was about 26 patients and it just went like clockwork,” Ketchum said. “I was proud of all the employees for that.”
Hospitalist Dr. Frank Malensek was a part of the team working in bylaws and essential details for more than a year before St. Vincent’s opened.
“To see all the different things that have to come together to put together a hospital. It is truly amazing. I don’t think anyone could truly understand,” Malensek said.
Now, Malensek is now a part of the day-to-day.
“The patients are well cared for, ” Malensek said. “They have a wonderful group of physicians that do a great job.”
He said patients are “eager to get well and get back to their lives, and that is really enjoyable to work with at patient population that wants to get back to work and back to their daily lives.”
St. Vincent’s Chilton is a part of St. Vincent’s Health System, which has hospitals throughout the region. It was important to the organization that the mission of the health system be an integral part of St. Vincent’s Chilton.
“A lot of time was spent orienting our associates to provide clinical care, but we also spent a lot of time educating them about the mission of St. Vincent’s and why it is so important to the care we provide,” Campbell said. “Our mission statement is: ‘Rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable.'”
All of the St. Vincent’s Chilton staff attended training on the history and legacy of St. Vincent’s, which emphasized “how the care we provide is more than just a job, it is a calling,” Campbell said.
An important aspect to the hospital in support of its mission statement is the chapel.
“The chapel for us is a sacred place,” Campbell said. It is a place that we encourage our associates and any patients, any visitor really to be able to go. We want people of all faith traditions to bewelcome in that space.”
In making the space welcoming, care was taken to make it unique for Chilton County.
“Our senior vice president of mission integration, his name is Wayne Carmello-Harper, had the idea of doing the seasons of a peach tree in the stained glass, which I loved,” Campbell said.
The Crucifix in the chapel is on a cross of local peach tree wood.
Mass is held in the chapel each Wednesday by Father BruceBumbarger of Resurrection Catholic Church in Clanton. Special services are held on Good Friday and near Christmas.
The Chapel was built with donations through the St. Vincent’s Foundation.
The hospital had planned on having 100 employees. Today, St. Vincent’s Chilton has the equivalent of 151 full-time positions. (This number combines part-time positions to equal one full-time employee in the count. For example, four employees may work part -time but are the equivalent of two full-time employees.) In addition to the doctors, nurses and surgeons directly serving patients, there are a number of behind the scenes employees that keep St. Vincent’s Chilton functioning efficiently. Some of these include food and environmental service teams as well as a medical supply team.
“We are also proud of our exceptional patient experience and quality outcomes, which have all been driven by our talented associates and physicians,” Campbell said.
Plans for the coming year include adding services.
“We will soon open our Transitional Care Program … This program will benefit patients who after an illness, stroke, injury or surgery may be getting better and are ready to leave the acute care level of a hospital stay, but still need some additional care before returning to a home environment,” Campbell said.
The hospital will also be establishing partnerships with local hospice providers for inpatient respite care.
“Respite care is short-term inpatient care provided to the individual when necessary to relieve the family members or other persons caring for the individual at home,” Campbell said. “Currently, these patients have to travel outside of Chilton County to receive this care.”
An anesthesiologist specializing in pain management will also be joining the team.
Future plans for the campus could include a sleep center, durable medical equipment store and a medical office building. Campbell said that the medical office building spaces would be full-time leases, rather than the current outpatient facility where an office is leased to different doctors on different days. The Chilton County Health Care Authority would be a partner for the medical office building, just as they were in bringing St. Vincent’s Chilton to reality.