New family clinic part of Mercy master plan

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Vickie Allen, (left), outpatient services director at Mercy Hospital Berryville, was penning suggestions provided by Sherri Plumlee, director of the Carroll County Heath Unit, while both participated in Mercy's Round Two roundtable discussion. Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- A new family practice clinic in Berryville is part of the Mercy Community Master Plan that was unveiled last week when St. John's hosted "Round Two" of its roundtable discussion series at the Berryville Community Center Thursday evening.

Kristy Estrem, president of Mercy Hospital Berryville, said plans call for the new facility to be built in the next five years, likely near the hospital, to provide more space and updated facilities for physicians and patients.

Also coming to Berryville is Epic, the electronic health records system. All Mercy and St. John's physicians are connected but not all hospitals.

Berryville is one of four remaining hospitals in the Mercy system awaiting its turn to go online. The others are Cassville, Mountain View and Aurora, all located in Missouri.

According to Michele Schaefer, senior vice president of Mercy Regional Operations, those four remaining hospitals are set to go online next March.

Berryville had to wait its turn, explained Estrem, who said Mercy's hospital in Joplin, Mo., was scheduled before Berryville.

Luckily so, she added, because of the deadly tornado that scattered paper records across the region.

With Epic in place, all patient records throughout Joplin's Mercy system were secure. In fact, she said, it was Mercy's computer center in St. Louis that knew something in Joplin was amiss almost instantly because of that electronic connection.

Estrem welcomed guests to Round Two of the roundtable discussion series and introduced Schaefer, who outlined Mercy's regional plan.

That plan was developed as a result of the first series of roundtable meetings that were held in 28 communities last year where themes emerged.

Schaefer said all Mercy facilities look different. As they are renewing and building new facilities, they will be implementing "recognizable" themes through design. She said the Joplin hospital "may be the first where we'll see the design emerge."

She said the renewal plan calls for a $4.8 billion investment in four states, with Arkansas facilities set to receive $404 million.

Schaefer spoke of HealthTeacher, an online source "offered by Mercy free of charge" that is available to educators to help them teach youngsters about healthier lifestyles.

MyMercy, another online service, is now available to patients who want to schedule their appointments or view their lab results online. That is in addition to Epic, she said, the electronic record keeping system that allows doctors, hospitals and specialists throughout the Mercy system immediate access to up-to-date patient information.

Locally, at Mercy's Hospital Berryville, Estrem said they have new technology -- "really expensive" technology, she said, that includes a 16-slice CT scanner to replace the 1-slice scanner. She said it is faster and better because it lessens the amount of radiation a patient receives. Also coming, she said, is a bone density scanner.

She was pleased to announce their trauma designation with advanced equipment, paid for in part with cigarette settlement money, that allows them to be one of a few hospitals in the state to achieve that distinction.

Hospital inpatient room renovations are about to get under way, she said, using nearly $250,000 that was donated by individuals and groups wanting to help the St. John's Foundation with its Room by Room capital campaign.

Telemedicine is already here, she said, that allows patients to consult with specialists at a remote location, and a new family practice physician is coming to Green Forest in November.

She said Mercy employs 145 full-time staffers here, paying out $7.5 million in salaries.

In addition, it gives back more than $400,000 to the community in the form of charity care, community care, donations and sponsorships.

Participants at Round Two were asked to share their input once again.

They noted their approval of new emergency room privacy measures that are being put in place, the new doctor coming to Green Forest, and the Mercy-wide electronic record keeping system that is scheduled for launch.

They suggested:

* establishing a rural health network that would coordinate the efforts of free health clinics and organizations such as People Helping People;

* establish school-based health centers;

* involve the community in physician recruitment efforts;

* establish more support groups;

* begin healthy lifestyle education in grade schools;

* offer digital mammography;

* bring back obstetrics;

* provide bi-lingual physicians;

* help fight obesity, poverty and teen pregnancy.

"This is a journey, another step," responded Schaefer, who thanked the participants for their input as Round Two of Mercy's roundtable discussions concluded in Berryville.

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