One thing remains a constant, according to administrator Kim Scoggins. She said the hospital has always provided the best in quality care to the community.
“We have been referred to as the Band-Aid station, but we have saved many lives here,” she said. “We’ve also had serious things that if we weren’t here, who knows what would happen to the patient?”
The hospital, at one time, was full of inpatients, had intensive care, critical care, a nursery and surgery. Scoggins said it still has 25-beds for inpatients, an emergency room and high-quality diagnostics.
Much of the former inpatient side of the hospital and the nursery is now offices, labs, or diagnostics. The hospital no surgery, obstetrics, intensive or critical care.
While in patients used to include surgical and acute, Scoggins said many now are those suffering from chronic problems.
She said the hospital had to change with the times in order to survive. The hospital came at a crossroads in the 1990s and, along with many other rural hospitals, faced the possibility of closing.
Challenges such as getting expensive equipment, recruiting specialists, changes in Medicare and Medicaid, changes insurance and soaring liability costs all contributed to the problem.
The solution for Polk Medical was to affiliate with a larger organization, which could overcome those challenges, she said.
The hospital is still owned by the Polk County Hospital Authority, Scoggins said. However, it is leased and managed by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which owns a number of hospitals in the United States and in Europe, including Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome.
“If we were alone out here, it would be very hard,” Scoggins said.
HCA took over management in 1996. The company spent $8.9 million to upgrade the building and equipment.
The hospital is designated as a critical access hospital by the federal government, which is a designation for rural hospitals. Because of that designation, Polk Medical has to have a sponsor hospital to work with it on issues like staffing and oversight. For Polk Medical, that sponsor is Redmond.
That federal designation happened in 2004, Scoggins said.
“Those two things have allowed us to remain open and allowed us to continue to be here and be a part of the community,” she said.
One of the primary areas of action at the hospital is the emergency room. Polk’s emergency doctors are rotated from Redmond’s staff allowing the emergency room to be open 24 hours, seven days a week.
“We’ve seen over 20,000 patients in our ER a year,” she said.
The emergency room implements a triage system, taking the worst cases first. A big part of its duty is to stabilize a patient so they can be transferred to a hospital with surgical or specialized services, she said.
Scoggins said Polk Medical has been noted within HCA for its quick turn-around time with emergency patients. The average wait time is seven minutes, she said.
“As soon as a patient walks in, we’re waiting on them,” she said.
The hospital is also known locally for its personal care both in the emergency room and with inpatients. Scoggins said that comes from low patient to staff ratio and the fact that most of the 115 employees, including around 90 doctors and 50 nurses, live in the area.
“You get more of that attention,” Scoggins said. “Our staff ratios are low, so we have more time to take that care.”
She said many of the staff personally know the patients and call them by name.
Scoggins also said all of its nurses have trauma care training.
She said many might not realize how much the hospital provides to the local economy. Not only does Polk Medical provide millions of dollars in both paid and free indigent health care, but the for-profit hospital has to pay taxes as well. That has amounted to around $750,000 in sales tax between 1996 and 2008, Scoggins said.
The hospital now has some other services available to Polk County residents as well, she said. The Senior Enrichment Center began two years ago, she said.
The center is a 12-week day program helping seniors with anxiety and depression issues. There is a psychiatrist on board who helps them adjust to being along again after the death of a spouse and similar issues, she said.
Those interested in more information about that program can call 678-246-2156 for more information.