Kirby marks its first year in its new location

Kirby marks its first year in its new location

MONTICELLO — Mayor Chris Corrie always knew the northern edge of town across Interstate 72 was ripe for development.

He just wasn't sure it would ever happen.

"A developer from Chicago had it, but it didn't go anywhere. I wondered if anything would ever happen there. It's such a wonderful doorstep to the community," Corrie said.

So when Kirby Medical Center announced plans a few years ago to build a new $30 million hospital on a portion of what is now the 108-acre Jefferson Parkway plat, the mayor said it just felt right.

"It's such a nice fit. There's no impact, no dirt, no truck traffic. It's such a nice fit for that spot," he said.

Kirby staff moved into the new 20-acre complex Sept. 29, 2011, and as they pass the one-year anniversary, reviews have been fairly positive.

"The one comment I hear the most is that it doesn't look or feel like a hospital, which is exactly what our intent was," said Steve Tenhouse, chief executive officer of the 71,000-square-foot medical center. "When the patients get behind the double doors, it may look a little more like a hospital, but it still carries the same look and feel throughout the building."

New services, personnel

The new facility has allowed Kirby to expand offerings, including a hospitalist program and adding a third physician. Personnel have also been added to the emergency room department, and the larger facility has allowed for updated equipment in most departments, including imaging and X-ray.

Along with the three physicians, the center has three mid-level practitioners on staff, with an estimated 20 doctors actively practicing there and over 200 on the list of consulting physicians.

Piatt County native Dr. Joshua Sawlaw was recruited as the third on-site physician for Kirby, and came on board this past summer. He said the new building allows for "great resources" including onsite lab and X-ray facilities, but counters that the overall atmosphere of the facility is what landed him.

"It was the environment and the people I would be working with," he said. "In the end, I went with Kirby for the greater ability to effect change and customize the work experience. You are still an individual, and have a direct link to the top."

Bumps along the way

The new facility is drawing more customers. Patient traffic (inpatient and outpatient) was up 20 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30, even though just nine months of the fiscal year were spent in the new building.

That has meant a larger number of those who cannot pay for services, something that in a way is welcomed by the not-for-profit hospital.

"The biggest surprise we didn't see coming is we've probably tripled the amount of uncompensated care over last year," which totaled $1 million in fiscal year 2012, Tenhouse said. "From a mission standpoint, it helps us meet our mission because that's part of our not-for-profit purpose, but as a business you have to adapt to those changes."

He attributes the increase to general economic factors as well as the higher profile of the hospital, including more visibility at its new location.

Adapting has meant scrutiny over each and every department, with some seeing layoffs and others netting new employees.

Kirby's CEO said those decisions are always tough, but in the end, "there hasn't been a whole lot of net change (in number of employees) since we moved."

The balance of keeping up to date along with serving the public — regardless of ability to pay — is reflected in the not-for-profit's mission statement: "Kirby Medical Center is committed to progressive hospital, outpatient and speciality services provided a convenient and compassionate setting to the people we serve, regardless of their ability to pay."

Better technology

The new facility is also more techno-friendly, partially due to its design but also because of federal mandates.

One of those is requiring all medical centers to become part of a Health Information Exchange. That involves digitizing medical records so they can be shared more readily.

"That's really the whole goal for that push — to be able to share information, so that no matter where the patient is, there is access to information," Tenhouse said.

Kirby has its electronic medical records in place for the lab/imaging, in-patient and emergency departments and will have full implementation by the summer of 2012.

The effort has also allowed for an interface between KMC and the adjoining Carle Clinic, which allows those at both facilities access to each other's patient records.

Another addition in Kirby's first year was the creation of a chief medical officer position. Longtime physician Narain D. Mandhan took on that role in August.

What's next?

Some portions of Kirby that seem modern have also been a part of the patient care package for several years. That includes the sleep lab (eight years) and tele-medicine components.

As for the future, the search has begun for a fourth physician, the facility will soon add more orthopedic and gynecological services, and plans to expand the number of general surgical procedures that are available.

"It's really a great opportunity to keep some of those cases here local, and a lot more convenient for the family and the patient," Tenhouse said.

By next summer, Jefferson Parkway should also be home to the Villas of Holly Brook, a 50-unit assisted living facility that will sit on 25 acres of the property. Tenhouse said it fits into the goal of the overall 108-acre development, which he hopes will focus not only on health but on "business and living."

City leaders hope that will eventually result in restaurants and other businesses that will pull shoppers off of Interstate 72.