Robin Parker Rodrigue's Letter to the Editor on Healthcare Session
As a member of the 2011 Leadership Tangipahoa class I am given a monthly opportunity to learn more about the abundance of programs, services, and products offered throughout Tangipahoa Parish. Most recently, our class had the chance to visit a number of Tangipahoa healthcare facilities. The day began at the Sunrise Senior Living Center located in Hammond. Lisa Wascom, Director of Community Relations, informed the group that the center would be celebrating its 13th anniversary on March 19th. Sunrise offers 94 unfurnished apartments each equipped with emergency call systems and individual thermostats. Trained medical staff is on duty or on-call 24 hours each day. The facility provides up to 3 meals each day, snacks, laundry and housekeeping services, a beauty salon which is open 2 days each week, transportation to medical and other appointments, social outings, an on-site library and postal services. Pets are even allowed. In fact, the community has adopted Ollie, a beautiful poodle mix who wanders through the facility and grounds greeting residents and visitors, providing companionship, bringing smiles to faces throughout the day. Ms. Wascom further explained that residents become like family members not only to each other but to employees and family members of other residents. The facility even offers a lovely dining room available for special occasions celebrated by residents and their families. Varying levels of care are offered to residents including assisted living, Alzheimer’s and memory care, and short term stays. No matter the level of service offered, Sunrise operates under six basic principles: preserving dignity, nurturing the spirit, celebrating individuality, enabling freedom of choice, encouraging independence, and involving family and friends. The goal is to provide the same quality of life to residents that they would receive within the walls of their own homes because Sunrise is just that…home to its residents. Residential costs range from $3,200/month to $6,500/month depending on the level of service provided.
Upon leaving the Sunrise Senior Living Center, the class then traveled to North Oaks Medical Center. Our visit to North Oaks was facilitated by hospital spokesperson, Melanie Zaffuto, who provided us with an opportunity to meet with several hospital representatives who introduced us to a wide variety of areas with the North Oaks Health System. Michelle Sutton, EVP and COO, began with a presentation that outlined the history of North Oaks which opened on April 20th, 1960 as Seventh Ward General Hospital, a not-for-profit hospital service district facility. Since its inception, hospital policies have been driven by a Parish Council appointed Board of Commissioners who can serve up to two consecutive 6-year terms. Over time, Seventh Ward evolved into the North Oaks Health System offering all heath care related services with the exception of organ transplant surgery and a burn unit. With more than 2,500 employees, physicians and volunteers, North Oaks Health System today includes the Medical Center, Heart Health Center, Diagnostic Center, Rehabilitation Hospital, Hospice, Clinics, Occupational Health Services, and Outpatient Rehabilitation Services. North Oaks is financed 100% through patient revenue with all proceeds being reinvested into new facilities, equipment and services. In 2008, the Tangipahoa Parish Council approved North Oaks to the State Bond Commission for $140 million to be used for the development of street access, the expansion of the rehab hospital, a new parking garage, a 5-story tower expansion, a 4-story medical office building, an electronic health records system, the Livingston Parish medical complex and the purchase of a surgery center. Ever-expanding, North Oaks Health System is the 2nd largest employer in Tangipahoa Parish. We had the opportunity to hear from a number of North Oaks physicians, including Internal Medicine physicians Dr. William Plunkett and Dr. Charles Ducombs . Both physicians commended North Oaks as serving as a community-based hospital and formulating an outstanding staff of physicians. Neurosurgeon Dr. Masel explained a new technology being offered through North Oaks that includes deep brain stimulation which is producing positive results for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Masel has brought in a number of international patients as well as a recent patient who was admitted through the Secret Service. North Oaks is also the home for two Harvard –trained Neurosurgeons, Drs. Espinosa and Choudry, who are both committed to building and developing the Northshore’s premiere neuro center. Keri Burkes, Women’s HealthNurse Practitioner with Magnolia Obstetrics and Gynecology stopped by to briefly speak about to group about the North Oaks Clinic which joined the North Oaks system in 2007. Its staff specializes in personalized women’s health care from adolescence to menopause. Our visit to North Oaks ended with a presentation given by Patricia Westmoreland, Executive Director of the Richard Murphy Hospice Foundation and Donna Landry, RN and Hospice House Administrator. The Richard Murphy Hospice Foundation is one of the largest non-profit foundations in Southeast Louisiana. Each year through its fundraising efforts, the Foundation provides funding for hospice care for terminally ill patients who do not have the means to pay. It is the mission of the organization to ensure that everyone who has a desire for hospice care will receive the care they deserve during their final days. In 2006, the Foundation expanded its efforts by building and operating the first independent (non-hospital owned) Hospice House in Louisiana. The Richard Murphy Hospice House provides the opportunity for terminally ill patients to receive hospice care in a comfortable and homelike setting when otherwise the patient has an insufficient dwelling or inadequate homecare to make it possible. The Foundation’s largest fundraising event, The Richard Murphy Hospice Gala, will be held on April 30th at Chesterton Square in Ponchatoula, LA.
Our next stop brought us to Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Independence. Mr. Chad Thompson, CFO, described Lallie Kemp as a part of the LSU Hospital System which provides the majority of care to the state’s uninsured patients. The facility is a Critical Access Hospital with the maximum capacity of 25 acute care/swing beds. A critical access hospital’s criteria is that it be located in a rural area, provide 24 hours emergency care services, and maintain an average length of stay of 96 hours or less. While primary care and a number of sub-specialties are offered at Lallie Kemp, much of the work focuses on disease management. While the primary mission is the medically indigent, the hospital provides health care to all citizens of the State of Louisiana accepting Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and self-pay patients.
The class ended its day at Cypress Pointe Surgical Hospital in Hammond. James Aldridge, CEO and part-owner of the hospital, explained that investors were poised for a great challenge when they had to become operational within 120 days in order to meet a state-imposed deadline required for the facility to maintain ownership among physicians. The primary goal was to hire local, develop policies and procedures, and contract for basic services so that the facility could be fully functional by the deadline. All goals were met and on December 4, 2010 the first surgery, a 5-level anterior cervical fusion, was performed at Cypress Pointe. The facility itself comprises 63,000 square feet on 7 acres of land on the SE corner of I-12 at the Airport Road exit. There are 24 inpatient rooms, 6 ICU rooms, 6 operating rooms and 2 procedure rooms. To date, Cypress Pointe has created 120 new jobs. Cypress Pointe offers no emergency room services. With 72 physicians on staff, its focus is on surgery and diagnostics. Mr. Aldridge explained that with the opening of the facility there are great hopes of revitalization in the vicinity with its direct access to I-12.
As with each monthly experience thus far, this recent day for the 2011 Leadership Tangipahoa class was educational and enlightening. The parish healthcare options are abundant and filled with dedicated employees whose primary mission is to provide quality healthcare to the citizens of the parish and its surrounding areas.
Robin Parker Rodrigue