December “more of a typical month” for Veterans Memorial Hospital; Progress continues to be made on new clinic anticipated to open in May

by Brianne Eilers

The month of December ended up being a bit quieter compared to the rest of 2020 for Veterans Memorial Hospital (VMH) in Waukon. VMH Administrator Michael Coyle noted that Emergency Room (ER) visits were up slightly over last month, with 16 more ER visits in December 2020 than November 2020, but ER visits were down 54 visits compared to last year at that same time.

Ambulance runs were down 20 in December 2020 compared to November 2020. Coyle did note that comparing December 2020 to December 2019 for ambulance runs, it was almost the same. Urgent Care was down “considerably” compared to last year, with 147 fewer visits comparing yearly.

Coyle noted that from the perspective of lab testing, most areas were mainly unchanged in comparing yearly stats. Coyle did state that mammograms were “way up,” as VMH performed 212 mammograms in December 2020 compared to 130 in December 2019, making a difference of 82 more. Looking at yearly comparisons, the hospital was up 76 over the previous year in the number of mammograms performed.

Coyle noted that respiratory therapy is growing, partly due to the fact that the hospital hired a full-time respiratory therapist a few months ago. That allows the hospital to offer more activities and new services in that area, which Coyle explained helps the hospital to “keep patients closer to home.”

On the inpatient side, VMH saw 51 admissions in December 2020, compared to 46 admissions in November 2020. The biggest age group for patient population is ages 65 and older. “That takes up the vast majority of our inpatient days, which we kind of expect,” Coyle said. The inpatient days are up approximately 38 days compared to the last month for that age group.

VMH saw 10 more deliveries in December than in November. The total number of days on the medical floor was up 35 days compared to November. “We didn’t have as many patients, but they were there for more days,” Coyle said.

He added that, overall, December 2020 was “more of a typical month” for VMH, as the hospital saw $3,230,388 in gross patient revenue, compared to last year’s $3,086,426. “In December, we had one of our busiest revenue months in company history,” Coyle said.

He noted that by the time you take out for insurance adjustments, the total operating revenue was $1,698,051, which he noted was still “very decent” for VMH. For December 2020, payroll for VMH was $1,206,000.

On the COVID front, Coyle reiterated that the hospital is asking the public to please not overwhelm the public health system with calls regarding the COVID vaccine. “We will let people know when we have it and our plan to dispense it,” Coyle explained. He also noted that the nation as a whole is seeing a vaccine shortage.

The goal will be to get it out as soon as possible when it is available to the public, following the CDC and State guidelines. Information will be available via the newspaper, VMH website and VMH Facebook page. Coyle said they will provide radio updates as well.

In other matters, the Foundation gave its report to the board, with its newest capital campaign focused on raising funds for the new clinic, which will be located in the former Mayo Clinic building. At the Foundation’s last meeting, board members approved a donation of $100,000 to the project.

Coyle further explained that there will be a direct mailing and calling campaign, and he thought mailers should be showing up in area mailboxes in the next couple weeks. Coyle also explained that the goal is to raise $600,000 to cover costs of renovation in the first phase and have some money left for the second phase as well.

Coyle also gave an update on the construction timeline regarding the new clinic. Demolition is complete as well as framing. He explained that they are in the process of skim coating the walls and getting them ready to paint. Plumbing and electric rough-in has also begun.

“Our goal is to have all the walls completely done by March 3,” Coyle said. He also noted that goal includes having the ceilings, lighting and flooring in by the March 3 as well. The project is moving along ahead of schedule so far.

Some of the staff for the clinic is being announced. Coyle said that two new providers have been hired for the clinic, Susan McMillan, NP and Halie Ruff, NP. A clinic director has also been hired, but the name is not being released yet. John Hawes will also be working part-time in the clinic, as well as working in the Emergency Room for VMH. Dr. David Schwartz will also be working in the VMH clinic full time.

Coyle stated that they will be looking to hire nursing and registration staff in the middle to the end of March. The goal is to have the clinic up and running by the first part of May 2021. Coyle explained that credentialing will be the biggest thing, in addition to getting things set up with insurance companies.

An ambulance task force is being formed to look at ambulance coverage in all of Allamakee County and how to  best recruit staff and utilize limited resources available. Coyle noted that the task force is being set up to examine the situation as a group, whether it is ways to save money or to best utilize staff while also letting each unit keep its own identity.

The VMH Board of Trustees also held officer elections during its January meeting. Dennis Lyons was elected board president. Kevin Hanson was elected to the office of vice president, and Patty Nordheim was elected as secretary.

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