Sundance hospital upgrades part of overall county improvements

Cheryl Angel and Erica Davidson test out the new electronic medical record system in the long-term care facility. (Sarah Pridgeon photo)
Cheryl Angel and Erica Davidson test out the new electronic medical record system in the long-term care facility. (Sarah Pridgeon photo)

By Sarah Pridgeon

Work is underway to upgrade facilities across Crook County Medical Services District to current medical standards. A new electronic medical record system has been installed in the long term care facility at Sundance Hospital and other district-wide improvements are either planned or in progress.

With the new record system in long term care, touch screen computers can be used to record staff activity throughout the day, allowing carers to log their activities as they go along. This can be used to track trends, such as whether a resident is eating properly, and alert carers to potential problems.

The system will reduce the amount of time that must be spent on paperwork and leave more time to spend on actual care, says CEO Jan Van Beek.

Approval is also pending for a new radiology suite to serve the county. This will require a remodel of the old surgical suite to ensure the rooms are appropriately laid out for the new CT scanner and x-ray machine.

The machines will pay for themselves through a five year lease-to-own agreement, says Van Beek, and the building improvement work is also partly included in the lease agreement. The remaining funds will be taken from a combination of grant money and donations, with any extra to be taken from a portion of the mill levy money.

“This will be for the benefit of everyone in the county,” says Van Beek. “We’re waiting for the Department of Health to approve the plan and then they will look at the [detailed engineering] plans and we can start moving forward.”

Crook County Medical Services District also has plans to upgrade the three clinics. Over the last couple of months, new computers have been added in Hulett, Sundance and Moorcroft to allow x-rays to be digitalized.

The network between the facilities has been strengthened in order to centralize information across the district and allow staff to quickly access data that would previously have been stored elsewhere. This has been achieved by installing two new computers in each location, funded through a state grant: one in the nurses’ station and the other in reception.

At present, the sharable information includes such things as vacation dates and hours worked. In the future, this will be greatly expanded with a planned electronic medical record system for the clinics and hospital.

If a patient is scanned in one clinic and then visits a doctor in another, for example, that doctor will instantly be able to access the results on the network.

“Once we get our electronic medical record system, everybody will be able to see what’s in any other clinic. We’re not to that point yet,” says Van Beek.

Even the recently installed Xerox machines in each clinic are designed to improve communication and patient confidentiality. They include, for instance, a privacy function that prevents sensitive documents or faxes from printing until the appropriate member of staff enters their personal code.

Among other recent and upcoming upgrades, Moorcroft Clinic will shortly be getting a new water system to improve water quality. This will be paid for from general funds.

Plans are moving forward to replace the x-ray machine in the Hulett clinic. How this will be funded depends on whether the district receives donations and what grants are successfully applied for, says Van Beek.

Refurbishments are also planned at Sundance Clinic and Hospital. The Hospital Foundation divided the money from the We Care fundraising between each town and the Sundance portion has not yet been spent.

According to Kathy Lenz, President of the foundation, the money raised was for capital projects; in other words, construction.

“We’re very protective of that money,” she says. “We want to be conscientious to the donors.”

The Moorcroft portion of the money was used to build the new clinic, while the Hulett portion was mostly used for refurbishment. A small amount remains, which may be used in the x-ray room in Hulett to accommodate the new machine.

The Sundance portion, however, has not yet been used. The foundation waited for the district’s decision on building a new hospital or clinic, says Lenz, and has now decided to use the funds to bring the current building up to code with items such as windows, flooring, air conditioning or plumbing.