An uncertain national economy and an unrelenting pandemic did not stop Fairfield Memorial Hospital from moving forward with their $24 million expansion. The ambitious project, which includes a new orthopedic wing, is almost unheard of for a small rural hospital.
(Fairfield, IL) March 16, 2021—It is rare to see small hospitals take the steps Fairfield Memorial is taking when it comes to a multi-million-dollar expansion. They are adding fully equipped operating room suites, an orthopedic wing with robotics, doubling the amount of same-day surgery beds, and so much more. “We are doubling the number of OR suites because we are going to have a new service line—orthopedic surgery. Our hospital has never entered that specific realm of healthcare,” explains Dr. Kathy Bunting, CEO.
Another area they are developing speaks to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic: Mental health. The FMH staff saw how important focusing on the mental health of their patients was now more than ever before. In the full renovation of their Emergency Room ward, they are adding rooms dedicated to psychiatric patients. According to Dr. Bunting, “there’s a psychiatric therapy dessert in the Midwest.” These are specially built rooms with movable walls that can be sealed and used for psychiatric care.
A New Tower
With their $20 to $24 million expansion, FMH is adding a new tower where advanced services will be housed. The tower will contain more same-day outpatient surgery suites, medical offices and many more services. It will be home to FMH’s state-of-the-art Orthopedics suite. They have added robotics to their orthopedic surgeries—something that is practically unheard of in a small rural community. This new department will also contain its own radiology department. “Orthopedic patients have difficulties in motion. We don’t want them to have to walk all the way to the main building and back. Everything they need, radiology-wise, will be in one place,” says Bunting. The new Orthopedic wing will be in the hands of newly hired Dr. Kory Blank.
What happens when a patient is well enough to be discharged, but still sick enough to need looking after? FMH solved that issue by opening a new Skilled Care Unit, to be housed on the third floor of the new tower. Catering more towards Medicare beneficiaries, these rooms will allow the patient to ease back into their daily routine without putting their health at risk.
Fairfield’s Expansion and COVID-19
The pandemic has helped Fairfield Memorial confidently adapt to what COVID-19 has proven crucial. Additional staff, equipment, negative pressure rooms, isolations gowns, hospital beds, and brand–new laundry appliances only begin to explain the positive changes to come.
FMH has quick, accurate response times to COVID testing while maintaining a safe COVID unit. Test results are attained from 1 to 4 hours. The hospital is “cut into two wings—a clean wing and a COVID wing. FMH will also now have six negative pressure rooms. When the expansion was being planned—pre-COVID—medical experts had no need for negative pressure rooms to treat respiratory illnesses. “We learned from this pandemic that we have to change the design flow,” says Bunting.
Supported Staff and a New Satellite Clinic
With a pandemic and multi-million-dollar expansion comes staffing changes. New positions have been created to support COVID research and services such as telehealth—a tool Fairfield Memorial felt was necessary. They had plans to add telehealth; COVID just accelerated them.
Still, with social distancing and quarantining, regular hospital visits decreased, thus seriously curtailing income. Bunting proudly states how FMH took care of its own people. There were no layoffs, the cafeteria did not charge employees, and with schools and daycare centers shutting down, FMH opened their own child-care center for their employees. “Our employees are our blood. Taking care of them is our solemn duty,” says Bunting.
Another part of the expansion saw the opening of a third satellite clinic approximately 40 miles from FMH in a farming community. The clinic supports the intense medical and COVID-related needs of anyone living in that rural area and that clinic is “the closest thing they have to an ER.”
’A Dynamic Organization That is Growing’
Fairfield’s expansion is proof that a small, rural hospital can do just as much as a larger one during times of difficulty. With telehealth, robotics, same-day COVID results and research, and staff that genuinely feels supportive, FMH is proving to be the little hospital that could.
“No Midwest hospitals are really doing expansion projects right now,” says Bunting. “We have a vision and we didn’t want to be interrupted with things that wouldn’t be a necessary advancement for our community population.”
About Fairfield Memorial Hospital:
Fairfield Memorial Hospital has been serving the health care needs of its surrounding communities since 1950. Today, they are a fully accredited, not-for-profit critical access hospital, that is operated solely on the revenues it generates, not reliant on tax monies like county hospitals in other surrounding communities. The hospital has a medical staff comprised of over 90 credentialed physicians and healthcare providers—from home health to acute-care to cancer care, offering numerous services in times of wellness and in times of need. Their sole purpose is to provide excellence in healthcare to the communities they serve, and are committed to public health education, wellness, and preventive medicine. Under Dr. Bunting’s guidance, the hospital remains a financially strong organization while providing high quality services to FMH’s patients and their loved ones. For more information, visit www.farifieldmemorial.com
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Karla Jo Helms
JOTO PR Disruptors™
JOTO PR Disruptors™