CoxHealth executives, administrators, physicians and community leaders gathered at the CoxHealth campus Wednesday afternoon to break ground on a $30 million project.
Cox Medical Center Branson President and CEO William Mahoney spoke of the groundbreaking as the first step in the fulfillment of a promise made when Skaggs Regional Medical Center merged with Cox just months ago.
“CoxHealth made some investments and promises, and why we’re here today is on one of those,” Mahoney said. “It’s to update our facilities here with the (emergency department) expansion and the (critical care unit) expansion.
“Our future is bright. A lot of hospitals in the community hospital sector right now are wondering what to do,” he said in reference to national changes in health care. “Our board did that as leaders ... we’re in the canoe, we’re strapped in, we’re rowing ahead. We do think the waters are going to get turbulent in the times ahead in health care. However, we know the direction we’re going and we know who we’re going with and we think that gives us a major advantage.”
Medical Plaza Two is being demolished to make room for a three-story, 42,000-square-foot addition to the hospital, and the project will also include the renovation of 18,000 square feet of existing space.
In addition to the emergency department and critical care unit, the third floor will act as a reserve for future expansion.
The emergency department will take up 31,000 square feet and will include 32 private exam and treatment rooms, eight observation beds, and will offer easy access to the existing imaging and laboratory departments at Cox Branson. The emergency department had only four rooms when it was built in 1992.
“The thing we have to focus on is health care, and that’s what we focus on,” Mahoney said. “Our quality scores are improving in a lot of different areas. We were able to recruit a lot of new doctors to the area, and that’s exciting for us ... We’re grateful to have a dedicated medical staff.”
The current emergency department serves 37,000 patients annually and that number could increase to 55,000 to 60,000 patients after facility improvements.
Branson Alderman Patrick Parnell, whose family was involved in founding the hospital, attended to represent the Parnell family, who also donated the piece of land on which the improvements will be made.
“Our family has a long history with the hospital and we’re proud of that history and proud of this hospital,” said Parnell, who was born in the hospital the fall after it opened in 1950. “It does our heart good to continue to see things go well.”
Preserving that history is important to CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards, as well.
“Having Patrick break the ground for us is really kind of a sentimental thing for us — to think you drive up Parnell Drive to get here,” Edwards said. “I believe the reason we got the winning nod was that confidence and trust that we’re partners and we care about the community. At the time, our board chairman was Larry Lipscomb, who is the grandson of Lester E. Cox, so there are a lot of connections that make us tight, and I think our cultures are very similar, so it’s a very sentimental recognition of that.”
Local ties aside, Edwards said providing better health care to more people is the ultimate goal.
“There have been days already this year where the hospital has gone in volume from 70 patients to 150 patients in a matter of a couple of days,” he said. “It’s very hard to meet those demands, and if the hospital is full, patients have to leave the community. Already, about 50 percent of the people in Stone and Taney counties leave the community for care, and we believe less than half of those don’t need to, that the care is here.
“As we expand our physical capabilities and as we add the talent of new physicians, we think we can keep more people local. Who wants to travel 100 miles or 50 miles away for care when you can get it here from people you know and trust?”