The South Central Kansas Medical Center (SCKMC) Board of Trustees at its Nov. 17 meeting unanimously approved a plan to develop a Geriatric Psychology Unit within the facility.

sckmcThe plan includes moving the current family birthing department to another area within the facility and renovating the current space to allow for up to six double-occupancy, long-term care rooms.

Dr. Perry Lin, SCKMC’s chief of staff and the community’s only OB/GYN, made it clear during the meeting that this change was not the end of obstetrical care at the medical center.

“We are not eliminating the OB department. We are moving it to another section of the hospital,” Lin said.

Hospital staff already have begun working on the first stage of the project — moving the family birthing unit. The team’s goal is to have that portion completed by early December.

“We are hoping for zero downtime for this transition,” said Virgil Watson, SCKMC’s chief executive officer.

“The biggest thing in our favor is that we have a new hospital. Nothing is a bad space in our hospital. Everything is nice, pretty new and aesthetically pleasing. It won’t take much to convert some underutilized spaces into a right-sized OB unit. It will be transparent to every family that comes into our facility that we won’t have any difficulties taking care of them.”

The addition of the Geriatric Psych Unit comes as a direct result of the findings delivered to both hospital and city administrators last month by Quorum Health Resources, the hospital consultation firm hired by the City of Arkansas City’s Public Building Commission to review SCKMC’s current operation.

“The Quorum report said we have many underutilized spaces in this hospital and that we should find things that are different from our competitors in the area that can be provided to our community,” Watson said. “We want to try and do something to serve our elderly community that fits within our mission and vision.”

Hospital chief financial officer Holly Harper agrees that the new program appears to be a good match with both Quorum’s recommendations and the needs of the community.

“The Geriatric Psych Unit comes from an understanding that we have a population that has a need, and is not necessarily serviced widely in this area, but could be profitable for the hospital,” she said. “It is a way that the hospital is diversifying (itself) and adding a service line that we don’t have currently. It’s a different service line than we have ever had, but hospitals all across Kansas and the nation are dipping into different types of services that they have never done before. For hospitals to survive, that is what you have to do.”

SCKMC will contract out the Geriatric Psychology Unit to an outside group to run the unit’s day-to-day operations. Hospital administrators have not released the name of the group at this point in time because contract negotiations are ongoing.

“It will be under our supervision, but we will contract with a group, with expertise in geriatric psych, to manage that process. It is our understanding that they would provide their own nursing staff and psychiatrist,” Harper said.

SCKMC’s new Geriatric Psychology Unit is scheduled to open in early January 2017.

This information was provided by South Central Kansas Medical Center Director of Marketing Clayton Pappan.