By Laura Millsaps
Special to The Tribune
It’s been almost a year since Story County Medical Center opened its new south campus facility on 19th Street in Nevada.
Since then, the change has been phenomenal, said Todd Willert, the medical center’s administrator.
“Our visibility is increased, quite obviously so,” he said. “I can’t tell you the number of times before (the south campus) was built I heard people say, ‘I didn’t know there was a hospital in Nevada.’
“By almost every metric, we’ve increased volume, in emergency room visits, in number of patients served. It’s a beautiful facility and is doing its job serving the county.”
Though the newness of the building and clock tower has barely worn off, the best indicator of growth for Story County Medical Center may not be the building itself but the real estate, a 20-acre campus with room to grow.
Meeting needs of an aging population
Story County Medical Center announced in March a partnership with HR Greene Company to build a Windsor Manor assisted living facility, with 30 units on 5.6 acres purchased from the medical center. An additional 10 rooms would comprise a “memory unit” for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or other types of memory loss. The project is due to break ground in August and is expected to open in the spring of 2011.
“Story County has a huge need for assisted living and a huge need for Alzheimer’s care” said Willert, who believes the facility is a necessary part of one of Story County Medical Center’s main services, senior care.
“Instead of going into nursing home care, seniors want an apartment or condo that provides some services, but not total care. This is having an affect on nursing home numbers, and we are tracking that.”
Willert said over the last 18 months, he has seen nursing home needs decline, but there has been a slight increase recently. He believes that as assisted living units fill and as seniors in them age to the point of needing more care, “the market is starting to right itself.”
In a phased building plan designed to gradually move services to the new campus from the medical center’s historic location on Sixth Street, Story County Medical Center will move monitored exercise therapy and outpatient physical therapy to the new campus next. Five to seven years from now, nursing home care will be moved to the new campus as well.
“We know at that time we need to right size our nursing care facility. We are at 80 beds now. Does it need to be 65? We are looking at that as we plan for our future facilities at this location,” said Willert, who said a Story County needs assessment for services would guide many of the decisions.
Partnerships that work for patients
While Story County Medical Center is a Mercy Hospital affiliate, Willert said there were various partnerships designed to fill the needs of patient care.
“There is a tremendous amount of misconception about this affiliation,” he said. “We are Mercy affiliated, but the Board of Trustees that govern this medical center are officials locally elected in Story County. They make the decisions that are best for this facility, and what’s best for patients in Story County.”
Willert said Mercy has assisted Story County Medical Center in level one heart attack protocols and stroke protocols. They are looking into tying into the Mercy system for electronic medical records and will pilot a telemental health program.
But partnerships with other institutions also are in the mix.
Last winter, the medical center worked with public health officials through McFarland Clinic and Mary Greeley Medical Center to host H1N1 flu immunizations.
“I’m glad we had the opportunity to work together, and I think we should be doing more with our health care neighbors,” Willert said.
A tele-radiology program, allowing X-rays to be interpreted through the Internet, is being coordinated with Iowa Health Systems.
“We’ll go with the partnerships that work best for us.”
Goals for rural care
“Our goal is to be an outstanding rural primary care hospital,” Willert said. “But the standard of rural care, the expectation, is always evolving.”
Willert said the recent purchase of a new CT scanner, a “quantum leap” forward technologically, is part of that kind of evolving expectation.
Adding locations over the years in Maxwell, Zearing, Slater and Ames was part of that response as well, as is planning of future expanded specialties, such as a pain and urology clinic.
“Expanding where appropriate is key,” he said. “Part of that is being good at identifying the needs of Story County residents. We think we do a great job at that, and our goal is to continue.”