Increases in staff, payroll accompany expansion

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

The expansion of Plains Regional Medical Center is showing additional benefits beyond adding in-house services such as a cancer treatment center, a rehab center and cardiac care.

Thesix-year, $53.5-million project is also making a significant impact on the local economy and has aided in the recruitment of nearly a dozen doctors.

“Obviously, the more we develop in terms of facilities, the broader our scope of services and the more we can provide,” hospital administrator Brian S. Bentley said. “Things that used to require us sending someone out of town, you can take care of here.”

A prime example is radiation treatment at the cancer center, said Wesley White, chief operating and financial officer for the hospital.

Hospital officials said the center has provided more than 2,300 chemotherapy treatments in 2004 and since the radiation therapy was added in June, the center has performed about 1,300 radiation treatments.

The expansion project has also had a significant impact on the area economy, White said. In 2003, salary and benefits paid out to PRMC employees came to just under $28 million. Budgeted salary and benefits to all employees for 2005 is just over $38 million, a 36-percent increase in just two years.

The hospital was able to recruit nine doctors in 2004, White said, and also contracted with two other physicians to provide care at the cancer center.

However, White and Bentley said recruiting doctors is one of the hardest tasks the administration has to face to keep up with the expansion and community’s demand on the facilities.

“Every town in America feels like they are short of physicians, so they are all recruiting these people. When they leave you, they have three or four other places on their list to go,” Bentley said. “So you are competing nationally for physicians, which means we compete with places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Chicago, (and) Hawaii.”

He said in order to successfully recruit doctors to Clovis, the hospital has to offer them the best working and living options possible.

“It won’t help to have the sophisticated new physicians, if we don’t give them to the tools they need, and a working environment that is as sophisticated as somewhere else,” Bentley said.

White said with the recruitment of a new cardiologist last year, the physician immediately pointed out the need for a cardiac catheterization service. Rather than wait for an installation of an in-house cardiac catheterization in the second phase of expansion, which could take until 2007, they are now in the process of implementing a mobile catheterization service.

“We are bringing that service to the community as quickly as we can because we have identified that need.”

He said the mobile facility should be put into service this year.

The Healthplex building put into service in July 2003 combined rehab facilities, occupational therapy facilities and other health services once run out of a small department in the main hospital.

Also, the spacious new emergency services center to be opened in March will greatly enhance the hospital’s ability to service emergency needs, White said. New roads and a dedicated ambulance drop-off will also assist patient flow into the emergency services, he said.