ELIZABETHTOWN — Cape Fear Valley/Bladen County Hospital CEO Dan Weatherly addressed the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon crowd on Tuesday and gave an update on the progress of health care and the future of the hospital.
“The hospital has done really well the last two years,” said Weatherly.
He continued by noting that the hospital is a 25-bed critical care facility. The hospital added 30 new positions last year and currently employs 300 people on a full-time basis, according to Weatherly.
He added that the hospital now has its own hospitalist program in place, headed by Dr. Pearlie Hoskins.
“We've also gotten a new CT machine called a 64 Slice,” said Weatherly.
He said this new machine is capable of generating a 3-D image which doctors can use to not only look at the front and sides of a patient's heart, for example, but this machine will allow them the capability to look behind the heart, too.
Weatherly said the hospital is also now stroke and STEMI certified. STEMI stands for ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction or severe heart attack.
“We've had some great stories with that … one of the volunteers came in with stroke symptoms and now he is back working in the gift shop,” said Weatherly.
He also announced that the hospital is preparing to add tele-psychiatry services to its inventory of services it can provide to patients thanks in part to a grant.
“The mental health in the state is in poor condition,” said Weatherly.
He added that often mental health patients will come to the hospital or the show up at sheriff's office seeking help.
Weatherly said that when a patient arrives at the hospital for mental health treatment, they have to be assessed, a bed found that can house them and they have to be observed.
“The tele-psychiatry should help with the mental health piece,” said Weatherly.
He added that all medical records now are in an electronic format. Weatherly said, for example, if you are skiing in Colorado and have an accident, the doctor at the hospital in Colorado can pull up your medical records that are housed here in North Carolina.
Weatherly reminded everyone that in June the hospital opened a new clinic in Bladenboro. He said the clinic now has about 950 patients.
He added that the hospital has plans to build a new clinic in Dublin in the next six to eight months with help from a grant from USDA.
When asked about the long-range future of the hospital itself, Weatherly said, “Cape Fear is committed to a presence here” but that a new hospital would be a huge undertaking.
He added that it takes about $35 to $40 million to erect a new hospital facility.
“You have got to be able to maintain viability for the new debt service,” said Weatherly said. “We would love to have a new facility, but we have to make sure it makes sense.”
He addressed the new health insurance exchanges and how it will impact the future of health care saying that a lot of changes are on the horizon. Weatherly said there is a shift towards preventive care.