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Morning Sun
  • Hospital project to start soon

  • Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center is just weeks away from beginning its multi-million-dollar renovation project, and just days away from adopting its new name.

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  • Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center is just weeks away from beginning its multi-million-dollar renovation project, and just days away from adopting its new name.
    A special ceremony March 26 will mark the official change from Mt. Carmel Regional Medical Center to its new name, Via Christi Hospital, a nod to its 14-year affiliation with Wichita-based Via Christi Health.
    About a week later, the Pittsburg hospital will begin the first of three phases to renovate its community entrance and lobby area. Chris Kelly, director of marketing and public relations, said Friday that phase one will likely begin during the first week of April, with each phase taking 30 to 40 days to complete.
    The first portion of the project will include the remodeling of the hospital’s main entrance, which will result in the second set of double doors being moved further away from the first set. Because that entrance will be closed for approximately one month during that time, visitors will be asked to use the outpatient entrance on the west side of the facility, the entrance to the hallway between the main building and the cancer center, or the stairs on the east side leading to dePaul Hall.
    Phase two will renovate and expand the cafeteria area, which will become more of a “modern grab-and-go” setup, Kelly said. The third phase will remodel the gift shop and snack bar areas. Other changes during the project will include a more private lobby area further away from the entrance, and the front desk will be turned so as to make it head-on with the doors.
    “When it’s all done, what you’ll have is an area with lots of light that is open and more welcoming,” Kelly said. “We’re excited about it.”
    With a $750,000 price tag, the remodel of the entrance and lobby area is just one part of a $7.1 million project that is under way at the hospital. Mt. Carmel’s cancer and heart centers are also receiving major upgrades that are aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the care provided.
    Cancer Center
    For $2.7 million, the cancer center will install a “state-of-the-art” linear accelerator that will not only reduce radiation treatment times, but will improve the accuracy and precision of the treatments.
    “Treatments generally last about 15 minutes on the previous machine,” said Jeff Phillips, manager of radiation oncology. “We can probably cut that down to 10 minutes on the new machine.”
    Phillips said the new 21,000-pound machine is at the top of its class in terms of technology and capabilities. It is a much-needed improvement over the previous equipment, which Mt. Carmel had for 15 years.
    “One major advantage of the new machine is that is can be upgraded as needed,” Phillips said. “The old machine could not be upgraded any more. It had come to its limits. The new equipment really positions us to move forward in the future. There isn’t a better machine on the market.”
    Page 2 of 3 - By having such equipment at the local hospital, patients needing the services it provides will not be forced to travel long distances for care.
    “To have this kind of technology, and to have this cancer center in a rural area like this is just amazing,” Phillips said. “It is something the community should be proud of. I certainly am.”
    The new linear accelerator is expected to be up and running by early June. In the meantime, patients needing treatment are being referred by Mt. Carmel to a different location. Their physician, however, remains the same.
    Heart Center
    Approximately $1.5 million is being spent on new technology for the Mt. Carmel Heart Center, most of which will go toward upgrading equipment for the catherization lab.
    Most of the improvements will be made to move the lab toward a completely digitally-operated system. A new digital archive system will be installed, which will allow for images to be stored on an electronic system rather than on CDs. Those images will be accessible by physicians whether they are on a computer inside or out of the hospital.
    “That will also help us better communicate with our referral centers in Joplin,” said Wes McDaniel, heart center director. “If we have to send a patient over there for open heart surgery, those physicians over there will also have access to those images. Before, we were having to send a CD over with the patient.
    “This will really streamline how we do things,” he said. “The imaging equipment and image quality will become top of the line with regards to technology. What we can offer here will be as good, if not better, than the folks in Joplin or anyone else we compete with.”
    The new equipment will also allow the heart center to manage its inventory electronically. The heart center project is expected to begin in early May and take approximately 60 days to complete. A mobile lab will be set up during that time so the hospital can continue to provide all of the services its patients have come to expect.
    “We will still continue business as usual,” McDaniel said.
    ‘Sense of pride’
    Mt. Carmel and Via Christi officials announced the upcoming changes in early October 2009. Aside from the three major projects, investments are also being made in shower, plumbing and mechanical systems, as well as waiting areas and various other equipment.
    Making the additions and renovations is aimed at turning the local community hospital into a true regional medical center.
    “Working with our regional partners, we’ll be able to offer patients greater access to specialized services, such as oncology and cardiac care, in their own backyard,” Drew Talbott, Via Christi vice president of operations, said last fall.
    Page 3 of 3 - For those who work at the hospital and play key roles in providing patients care, the project is a sign of a “forward-looking” administration that is dedicated to remaining competitive in the medical market.
    “It gives you a sense of pride in coming here to work,” McDaniel said. “They are giving us what we need to stay competitive, but also what we need to provide our patients with the best possible care and best technology available. It’s exciting. It is hard to find, in this type of community setting, an administration that is this progressive.”
    Kelly said that although Pittsburg is often seen as a small, rural community, “that doesn’t mean you can’t have access to the best care available.”

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