SkyRidge working to boost its image
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Sep 19, 2012 | 1527 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is a maxim in the medical profession that states doctors in larger towns are always going to be better and smarter than doctors in smaller towns even if the small-town physician was the mentor.

That some think that way is a fact of life that also applies to hospitals, and some community surveys bear that out regarding SkyRidge Medical Center.

“We still have community surveys and a lot of people say they wouldn’t take anybody to ‘Die Ridge,’ it’s such a horrible hospital. [They make comments like] ‘I wouldn’t take my dog there,’” SkyRidge Medical Center CEO Coleman Foss said Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Cleveland.

“The fact of the matter is we have people coming in from all over Chattanooga to have spine surgery. We’ve had people from as far away as Jacksonville, Fla., having spine surgery.”

He said people from the northern tier counties of the hospital’s market area of Rhea, Meigs and McMinn have had positive experiences and the patient satisfaction scores are extremely high.

“Where we rank the lowest in our patient satisfaction in terms of the scores is the 37312 Zip Code and I think a lot of that is just past history,” Foss said. “I’m not going to stand up here and say we’re perfect. We’re a hospital. Every hospital has issues from time to time. It’s the very nature of what a hospital is. We’re doing everything we can to avoid a negative situation.”

Foss arrived in Cleveland five years ago this week amid a sea of changes that included folding the former Cleveland Community Hospital and Bradley Memorial Hospital into a single operation. Community Health Systems already owned the smaller Cleveland Community Hospital on Westside Drive and assumed ownership of Bradley Memorial on Oct. 1, 2005. Ceremonies at both hospitals on Nov. 1, 2006, officially unveiled SkyRidge Medical Center as the name for the Westside and Main campuses.

“There has been a significant amount of change, I hope all for the better. I really don’t think there have been too many negatives we’ve had to endure over the last five years in terms of backsliding,” Foss said.

When Foss arrived, he noted there was still a lot of “angst and that was probably overflowing into the level of patient care. Bradley Memorial had a huge exodus of staff and physicians were about ready to form a union, bolt or just get out. There was quite a bit of anxiety there.”

But, in the ensuing years, Foss expressed confidence the hospital has re-established the fundamentals of patient care and added additional services such as oncology, spine, vascular surgery and cardiology.

“All of that is moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot more we want to do,” he said.

In doctor-like fashion, the chief executive officer presented some good news and bad news concerning emergency services. The emergency room will see about 60,000 patients this year, a significant increase over the 44,000 who entered the ER doors five years ago.

“This past Monday, we set a record in the emergency room. We saw 205 patients in the emergency room. The bad news is, this is the slow time of the year,” he said. “I’m really struggling to figure out what’s going to happen when it is cold and flu season and we have other issues on top of it.”

Foss said everyone who walks into a hospital anywhere in the nation walks though the doors with a certain amount of anxiety. However, 87 percent of those patients leave SkyRidge feeling very satisfied.

“People still think, ‘Aunt so-and-so died at Bradley or Cleveland Community in 1970, and we’re not going to give you a chance.’ We know that. That’s not a unique situation,” Foss said.

But, the hospital administrator said the community is blessed with some high-caliber physicians and equipment.

“You could play basketball in our orthopedic operating rooms. They’re huge. It takes one about that size just to do an orthopedic procedure,” he said. “I would put our [operating rooms] against anyone in the region. We’ve had reps come in and say our ORs are second to none. Our GI lab at the Westside Campus — everybody praises it as being much better than anything in Chattanooga. There is only one in Knoxville that competes in terms of level they have.”

Foss said Bradley County is growing and as the hospital grows, so grows the town, and as the town grows, so grows the hospital.

“There is no question there is a correlation between the two of them,” he said. “We built that one patient tower and we’re looking at probably having to build another.”

The CEO said many good things have happened and a lot of this is because SkyRidge has managed to attract Chattanooga physicians.