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DMH Expansion Planned in Advance of Downturn

December 12, 2008
By WAYNE SHEETS, Contributing Business Writer

When Davis Health System started making plans for expansion two years ago, no one had any idea the country would be in a recession before the project was complete. An episodic health care facility began receiving patients this summer and a home medical equipment business will open next week.

President and CEO of Davis Memorial Hospital Mark Doak said while the hospital has felt a few nudges from the national downturn, economic conditions can't play a role in a health care provider's mission.

"The economy is affecting our health care system, but fortunately those effects are just beginning to manifest themselves," Doak said. "We have seen a slight drop in the number of patients visiting both the hospital and our DirectCare facility. I believe, since the effects of the economy were just beginning to be felt in our area around the middle of last year, that we opened the DirectCare facility at the right time to help counter the affects of the slowing economy.

Article Photos

(The Inter-Mountain/Wayne Sheets)
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS — President and CEO of Davis Memorial Hospital Mark Doak and Director of Marketing and Communications Elizabeth McKay look over their budget for promoting the services and equipment that will be available at the new Davis HomePlus facility when it opens on Wednesday. The new facility, located in the old IGA grocery building, will provide durable home medical equipment.

"Yet, some people may be experiencing times when they either do not have the financial resources to pay for health care or are delaying them until they feel they are in a stronger financial position," he said.

Doak said some people may question the feasibility of the hospital's expansion programs in these times of economic downturn.

"People require health care regardless of the economic conditions," he said. "Our expansion projects just happened to be taking place at a time when most other industries are retracting. We don't have that option. Conversely, I think the new facilities have and are coming into service just when the community needs them most. If the economy continues to slow, we may have to reconsider the priorities of other projects, but I don't think retraction right now is the proper thing to do."

Doak said that regardless of the economy, DHS has the mission of providing health care services to the community and they plan to fulfill that regardless of the patient's financial strength.

"The slowed economy and drop in patients, even though the drop is slight, has caused us to take a closer look at our operating costs, but keep in mind, though, that we are always conscious of these costs and are constantly looking for ways to be prudent and to economize," Doak said. "While the DMH is a not-for-profit hospital, meaning among other things that we do not pay dividends to stockholders for example, we still must make a profit otherwise we would not be able to continue to operate. Fortunately, we have made a profit over the past few years but those profits have been and will continue to be put back into the hospital in capital improvements and expansion such as the two new facilities we've been discussing, cutting edge diagnostic and operating equipment and salaries. This is necessary in order to be competitive in the industry, provide quality health care and ensure that we attract qualified and experienced physicians and staff.

Doak credited the hospital's success to its employees.

"They are dedicated and they want to do the right thing," Doak said. "They want to take care of their patients, tough times or not. They don't care about the financial resources of their patients; if they need help, the doctors and staff are going to take care of their needs. I am very proud of each and every one of them."

DirectCare on the Beverly Five-lane provides another location for patients to have their needs met.

"Before then the only place a person had to go for urgent care was the hospital's emergency room, which is very expensive," Doak said. "We realized that such a health care facility would do two important things for people in need of seeing a doctor in a hurry. First, it would reduce the number of emergency room visits, and secondly, it would provide a service to those in need at a greatly reduced cost."

Doak said that according to national studies, patients' waiting time is cut by two-thirds - from three hours at the emergency room to less than one hour in the DirectCare facility.

"One might ask why would a hospital open a facility that would cut into the hospital's revenue?" Doak said. "The answer is that it was the right thing to do. Our mission is to provide quality health care to our community, the costs notwithstanding."

Doak said that shortly before DirectCare opened, another walk-in care facility opened on the other side of town. Now there are two facilities on either side of town with the emergency room in the middle.

"I don't think there could possibly be a better arrangement anywhere," he said.

Davis HomePlus, a business offering durable home medical equipment will open Wednesday in former IGA building on Randolph Avenue. It will be the region's only full-service home medical supply and home respiratory care facility.

"Here again, we will be providing a much needed service to our community that is not now available," Doak said. "Home Health Associates were providing this service until they moved to the Clarksburg area. That left a tremendous gap in the provisioning of wheelchairs, hospital beds, walkers, safety grab bars, toileting items and other kinds of durable equipment that is used in the home to keep patients safe and comfortable."

According to Director Billie Jo Bowser, the new property is perfect for the business, which was quickly outgrowing its current location on the hospital campus.

"Moving into the new building will help us reach our goal of improving services and the quality of life for our customers," she said. "In addition to a larger, more convenient parking area, our new facility will provide ample display areas with space to demonstrate respiratory and other medical equipment."

Bowser said that the new facility will also feature specialty aides in the area of women's care, including items specifically designed for use by patients following breast cancer surgery including bras with special pockets for breast forms, prosthetics, wigs and swim suits."

She emphasized that the new facility will feature a special privacy area for the viewing and fitting of these items.

Doak said that a major consideration for the newly opened DirectCare and soon to open Davis HomePlus was the availability of buildings and their location.

"We were considering building new buildings but just at the right time the old Tastee Freez and IGA grocery store buildings came available," he said. "After renovations of the buildings we will probably have a cost of $50 to $60 per square foot in them. You can't build a new building for anything near that."

According to Public Relations Director Elizabeth McKay, DirectCare is open Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday's hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Sundays, the facility is open from noon to 4 p.m. She also said that an open house at HomePlus will be hosted some time January or February.



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