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Ark City Hospital Celebrates Third Anniversary

March 13, 2014
March 17th will mark three years since South Central Kansas Medical Center opened the doors to a new facility; a facility that was built upon assurances of growth, service improvement, and economic development. Promises that are paying off as the physicians and staff of the medical center continue to work with the City of Arkansas City and other business partners to improve the local healthcare landscape.

(Arkansas City, KS) - March 17th will mark three years since South Central Kansas Medical Center opened the doors to a new facility; a facility that was built upon assurances of growth, service improvement, and economic development. Promises that are paying off as the physicians and staff of the medical center continue to work with the City of Arkansas City and other business partners to improve the local healthcare landscape.

Steve Perkins, SCKMC's CEO, stresses that both past and future successes for the hospital are tied directly to local backing.

"Our investment in the future of the Cowley community is significant. We all realize we would not be here today if not for the support of our community. As we look for ways to continue to grow and thrive, we need that continued effort," Perkins said.

SCKMC is a "quasi-municipal" entity, connected to the City of Arkansas City in both its ownership and funding of the $23 million replacement facility project. Funding provided in part by a one-half cent sales tax that was voted in five years ago for a project which not only included the construction of a 66,000 sq. ft. hospital on 168 acres referred to as Patterson Parkway, but also new equipment purchases and construction of an adjacent medical office building.

The medical office building, named the outpatient services building by hospital staff, houses the medical center's specialty clinic. The clinic is the full time office for general surgeon, Dr. Tyson Blatchford, and obstetrics and gynecological specialist, Dr. Perry Lin. Dr. Lin is the city's first full-time obstetrics and gynecological care specialist. In addition to OB-GYN care, Dr. Lin also has a subspecialty in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

"I think that I am integrating very well into the medical community. I provide subspecialty services that have not been previously easily available. To make services available locally, I think that is very important and appreciated by the patients. The community has been very supportive and the medical staff has been extremely helpful and receptive of myself as a new physician," Dr. Lin said.

In addition to Dr. Lin and Dr. Blatchford, the clinic also provides patient care space for thirteen physician specialists.

"Part of our commitment we made with the new facility was the expansion of local medical services. Whether it is a fulltime practice such as Dr. Lin's or a part-time schedule like our new orthopedic surgeon Dr. Damion Walker, we want to provide a level of care and service that will reduce the need for people here to travel greater distances," Perkins said.

SCKMC plans to continue to expand physician services locally. Hospital administrators are currently working with area physician clinics to actively recruit more doctors into the area.

"We are hopeful of being able to attract additional doctors either to one of our local clinics or to the hospital. We need more doctors with specialties like family practice, internal medicine, or pediatrics; that's probably our single biggest need in terms of growth. We are always also interested in specialties that could benefit a large part of our population," Perkins said.

While hospital representatives consider their medical and support staffs to be the foundation that all healthcare services are built upon, they believe for long term success the equipment used and services provided in patient care are critical elements that cannot be ignored.

One of the departments most improved by the move to a new facility has been radiology. The department features six new pieces of equipment, most notably the high field open MRI. The "open" design is the first in Cowley County and is intended to help alleviate the claustrophobic feelings often associated with MRI exams.

Other recently developed programs include an incisionless procedure performed by Dr. Blatchford that is designed to treat chronic acid reflux, upgraded laboratory testing equipment with expanded capabilities, the designation as one of the State's emergent stoke ready hospitals, and a diabetic education team who advise newly diagnosed patients, or re-educate patients who have become less vigilant with their diabetic care as time has gone by.

The diabetic education team is headed by the hospital's Registered Dietitian, Diane Ray, and also includes members of the physical therapy and nursing departments.

"We are being proactive in educating our patients. Some can actually defeat the disease if they lose weight and get into better shape," Ray said.

It is this type of success that has helped to secure outside development within Patterson Parkway. A 60+ bed Best Western Plus hotel is currently under construction on the property and is scheduled to be completed this summer. The City of Arkansas City, hospital officials, and local and regional property developers are working to advance the property's master plan with additional medical offices, senior housing, and other retail.

SCKMC's has accomplished several of their original goals since the planning and funding of the building, in-spite of dramatic changes in the healthcare industry during that time. Perkins believes several changes made nationally have ultimately had a negative impact on the hospital's bottom line. He cited several examples including the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare," and significant cuts to hospitals Medicare and Medicaid funding. Insurance carriers are trending towards higher patient deductibles and co-pays, which according to Perkins, has impacted how patients seek services and pay their portion of the bills. With additional changes to the nation's healthcare pending, it is unclear what further blows may result.

"Although the challenges facing the industry are as intimidating as ever, we feel like we are very well situated in terms of the facilities and programs we have to offer here and now just need to continue to grow. There are a lot of exciting things happening in this community and we want to be right there with that excitement," Perkins said.

Pictured (from left): Steve Perkins, South Central Kansas Medical Center's CEO, stands with three of the hospital's physicians: Dr. Tyson Blatchford, general surgery; Dr. Damion Walker, orthopedic surgery; Dr. Perry Lin, Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Pictured (from left): Steve Perkins, South Central Kansas Medical Center's CEO, stands with three of the hospital's physicians: Dr. Tyson Blatchford, general surgery; Dr. Damion Walker, orthopedic surgery; Dr. Perry Lin, Obstetrics & Gynecology.