It has been a little more than six months since CoxHealth and Skaggs Regional Medical Center merged and changes are continuing, including the addition of several physicians, expansion of emergency and critical care facilities and training for medical school students.
William Mahoney, president and CEO of Cox Medical Center Branson, said the changes are a part of the effort to provide better health care as a result of the merger between Skaggs Regional Medical Center and CoxHealth.
The medical center has already hired five new physicians and Mahoney said nine more interviews are scheduled during the summer.
“They’ve been from hospitalists to family practice to internal medicine,” he said of the physicians’ specialties. “We have a plan to recruit 23 physicians. We’re hoping to do that over 12 to 18 months.”
Mahoney said the hospital is able to do so specifically because of the merger between health care systems.
“When we were an independent hospital with not a lot of security, they were apprehensive about coming here,” he said. “Now, joining CoxHealth with their reputation and resources, (physicians) feel the stability. We’re lining up interviews we never would have had in past.”
Media Relations Specialist Michelle Leroux said one of the areas the hospital expects to add services is in the primary care area.
“We anticipate as the need continues to grow in the community for primary care physicians, we’ll meet that need,” she said.
Leroux said the Cox partnership is making that possible in two ways — first the partnership provides the needed funding and second, she said the “strong, dominate name” that Cox brings is also attractive to physicians.
Cox Medical Center Branson will also forge a partnership with the University of Missouri. Mahoney said medical students would have an opportunity to receive training at the facilities in Branson.
“They call it a rural tract,” he said. “They want students to have a rural experience, versus a city environment. What they would be doing is working with various physicians — family practice and different specialties — so they could be trained in that area, but also help them in their interests to help them decide what kind of doctor they want to be.”
At the moment, CoxHealth only has plans to work with the University of Missouri, but Mahoney said the hospital would be open to other partnerships if the number of physicians to provide the training is fit.
In terms of physical changes to the hospital, Mahoney said, the entranceways and emergency care units would see improvements.
“When you go down the main drive, you have four choices where to turn,” Mahoney said. “We’re going to make that two so it’s easier to get in and out. That will happen early fall.”
The emergency room and critical care unit are slated for expansion.
“The ER has 32 beds plus observation beds in there,” Mahoney said. “It’s going to be quite a bit larger than we have now.”
He said on the second floor, above the ER, the number of beds in the critical care unit would double to 20 beds. The third floor, he said, is reserved for a future use yet to be determined.
“At this time, that could be more of an expansion of private beds or specialty serviced offered in the future,” Mahoney said.”
Plans are also underway to tear down Medical Plaza II as part of the project, Leroux said.
Until the end of the year, Mahoney said, the hospital would keep a close eye on how the Affordable Care Act will affect the medical center.
“As far as the Affordable Care Act, I can’t tell people what to expect in the next six to 12 months,” Mahoney said.