The maxim for small-town healthcare is usually something along the lines of, "Don't get sick. Don't get hurt." But since Central Peninsula Hospital has implemented a variety of new services and hired a slew of specialists, now you can get sick and hurt as much as you please, without having to worry about the quality or scope of care.
In 2007, CPH launched a strategic planning process to pinpoint necessary areas of improvement. The end goal was to provide as many new services locally as fiscally possible, thus reducing the need for outside care.
"So if we identify something like orthopedic spine surgery or urology or neurology or pain management specialty," said Ryan Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of CPH. "Then we decide that there is a need for that service here and if we can support that service here."
The next step is recruiting physicians to come here, and so far the hospital has racked up quite a few new additions to its ranks: an anesthesiologist, an orthopedic spine surgeon, six hospitalists (in-patient physicians), and other specialists.
Craig Humphreys, the spine surgeon, is set to start some time around July of this year.
"We haven't done any spine surgeries in our hospital," Smith said. "He'll be the first physician we've had here on the Peninsula doing spine surgery in the hospital."
Justin Evans, the new board certified anesthesiologist, started in mid-November and doesn't intend to leave. Hailing from Kansas, Evans did his anesthesia residency at the Mayo Clinic and received his medical degree from the University of Kansas.
"My wife and I are both from smaller towns, so to move to a smaller town was a nice opportunity," said Evans, who worked at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage before coming to the Kenai Peninsula. "When I came down here it seemed like a really good group to work with and I think overall the job just seemed really appealing.
"I don't plan on leaving. Unless something came up," he laughed.
Evans is now one of two anesthesiologists employed by the hospital, the other being Gregg Montonaga.
"Before if (Montonaga) was out of town, there wasn't an anesthesiologist available," Evans pointed out. "I think they thought that it was just a good idea to have a second anesthesiologist here so there's always one around."
In addition to increasing the numbers of employees (the hospital now employs 790 people, as compared to 400 in 2006), CPH is also expanding its behavioral health program. The hospital recently received a grant from the state for treatment of pregnant women to the tune of $150,000 a year.
And all of this revenue generated, either through grants or from treating patients, has allowed CPH to ease some of its financial burden off of the taxpayers.
"We've been able to lower the mill rate for service area property taxpayers as we've grown as a facility," Smith said, citing that three years ago, taxpayers were paying a 1.0 mill levy, which amounted to close to $4 million.
The mill rate fell from 1.0 to .9 to .5 and is now situated at a .02 -- about $80,000.
"Although there's been kind of an economic downturn in the Lower 48, we've experienced really continual growth in this organization here on the Peninsula," Smith said, and that growth has both alleviated the taxpayers' burden and allowed the hospital to better serve community members.
"A lot of hospitals aren't fortunate enough to be in the position that we're in. We have a great group of employees, physicians, and volunteers who really help us bring this together."
Karen Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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