towner

Chad Towner, CEO of Plateau Medical Center in Oak Hill, said the new patient rooms in the orthopedic wing of the hospital are so comfortable and well-appointed many patients want to stay as long as they can. For a hip or knee replacement, the usual stay is about four days. Other procedures, such as arthroscopic surgery on a knee or shoulder, require shorter stays, sometimes only overnight.

OAK HILL — By the time Plateau Medical Center CEO Chad Towner officially christened a new orthopedic wing in October, the five-room section had already been doing brisk business.

“We have had patients from Oak Hill, Beckley, Fayette County and surrounding areas, but we have also had patients from Pennsylvania and Kentucky, who had heard about the quality of our care and came here for their procedures,” Towner said.

The new wing started with the vision of Beckley orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brett Whitfield, who approached PMC’s previous CEO David Bunch with the idea.

Plans were put on hold for a short while following the departure of Bunch and the March arrival of a new CEO.

“We were able to kick things into high gear and get this finished. The response has been extremely good. This is something that will make a big difference, not only in Fayette County and surrounding areas,” Towner said.

With a capital outlay of more than $2 million for equipment and renovations, a complete overhaul of the second-floor med-surg areas provided five new rooms dedicated exclusively for orthopedic patients. Four are post-surgery rooms, and a fifth room can be used for overflow and infusion services.

“We gutted the whole space and redid everything. There’s a new color scheme, and the rooms are designed to be home-like and comfortable,” Towner said.

“They’re pretty comfortable digs to hang out in, and we find patients don’t always want to go home. They want to stay an extra day or two,” he said. “A typical stay for a hip or knee replacement is four days. Arthroscopic surgery on a knee or shoulder might require only an overnight stay.

Each orthopedic patient has a private room.

“That’s one of the things patients really appreciate.

The operating rooms are also equipped with all the technology needed to provide state-of-the art joint surgeries and replacements, including a new laminar air flow system designed to prevent the risk of surgical infection.

“One of the greatest concerns for hip or knee surgery is infection. You don’t want a post-surgical patient to go back in and have to have more surgery because of an infection. We have done everything we can to prevent that,” Towner said.

There is also a gym where patients can participate in post-surgical physical therapy.

“After someone has had a hip or knee surgery, they have problems with things like stairs. Therapists can begin working with them right away to help them navigate stairs and get around the way they need to when they get home,” Towner said.

In addition to the surgeon’s skill, all the technology and tools, a good outcome requires a fully trained staff to make all stages of the process go well, Towner said.

“It takes a whole team of people to get the job done right. We need everyone from the radiology department, lab, the maintenance crew, housekeeping, dietitians, the anesthetists, therapists and all the people involved with that patient from their registration to their discharge working together to get the great outcomes we want,” Towner said.

Whitfield said his vision came from a desire to change the way people feel about hospitals.

“Generally, people tolerate hospital stays but do not take away a positive opinion of their stay. Numerous studies demonstrate that people physiologically heal better when they feel positive about their care and surroundings. Obviously, the inverse is also true. The concept was to produce surroundings and hospital care that would reinforce positive feelings,” Whitfield said.

Changing the nurse-to-patient rate also helps ensure more consistent care during the hospital stay, he said. “Orthopedic patients require more assistance than most other surgical patients because of the nature of their surgery. They have more pain and more physical incapacity. Therefore, they require greater nursing assistance. On our orthopedic wing, we have one nurse for two patients instead of hospitals where one nurse may be taking care of seven to nine patients,” Whitfield said.

The new CEO has plans in mind for renovating other areas of the hospital.

“The new ortho wing was a catalyst project that got people to wake up to the notion we can do something fresh. We’re landlocked, so moving outside the walls isn’t feasible at this point, but there’s a lot we can do to refresh the other departments. It will take time, but it’s my job to think ahead 10 years and plan accordingly,” Towner said.

— E-mail:bdavis@register-herald.com

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