Parkway opening due in early May

Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital – Wise Regional Health System’s latest satellite hospital – is expected to begin seeing patients the first week of May.

Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers told his board Monday at their regular monthly meeting that the facility is waiting for finalization of its pharmacy license.

The new hospital is located on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth on North Tarrant Parkway. It is designed as a state-of-the-art surgery center with an array of facilities for elective surgeries as well as emergency procedures.

Summers introduced Denise Scurlock as the administrative director for the Parkway campus. Scurlock has more than 20 years’ experience in health care.

Even though Parkway isn’t generating income yet, the hospital system still had an increase in net assets of $150,000 for the month of March on gross patient charges and other revenues of $44 million.

CFO Jim Eaton told the board the volume for inpatient and outpatient services increases in March compared to the previous month, including a 20.1 percent rise in inpatient admissions, driven by a nearly 40 percent increase in inpatient rehab and behavioral patients. Outpatient services were up 5.7 percent from the prior month.

The Bridgeport campus continues to show losses, with lower surgery volumes and all other outpatient services lower than expected. The campus lost $253,000 in March – but adjusting that number for depreciation brings the cash effect at Bridgeport to a loss of $126,000.

Eaton said operations there continue to be monitored to see what further efficiencies can be gained.

The board also heard the 2013 audit report from CPA Michael Oatman. Overall, he said the hospital is in excellent financial condition.

Summers updated the board on efforts to re-finance a significant part of the hospital’s debt. A board meeting is planned in early June to make that official – a move that will save WRHS millions of dollars in interest payments due to an improved bond rating.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Chief Nursing Officer Sue Sewell, RN, reported to the board on retention strategies for nurses.

Currently Wise Regional’s vacancy rate is 6.9 percent, and the turnover rate for nurses is 20.7 percent. Both of those are below state averages, but Sewell said they are working on strategies to get them even lower.

“It is the consensus that the longer our nurses stay at our facility, the better it is for patient care,” she said.

She also pointed out that the Obstetrics department earned recognition recently for being in the 99th percentile of the Press-Ganey patient satisfaction ratings for six consecutive months.

Summers expressed his appreciation to physicians and staff after it was noted that Wise Regional was named a recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Patient Experience Award from Healthgrades – a leading resource that helps consumers search, evaluate, compare and connect with physicians and hospitals.

He said the award places WRHS in the top 5 percent nationally for patient satisfaction based on 27 different questions that encompass 10 distinct measures – ranging from cleanliness and noise levels in patient rooms to factors like pain management and responsiveness to patient’s needs.

The measures also include whether a patient would recommend this hospital to friends or family.

The board also approved new appointments to the medical staff based on recommendations of the Medical Executive Committee, and accepted the medical staff’s reappointments and first-year reviews.

The next scheduled meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, May 26, in the Administration Board Room at 609 Medical Center Drive in Decatur.

Posted in News0 Comments

Wise Regional earns top marks in ‘patient experience’

Wise Regional Health System has been named a recipient of the 2014 Outstanding Patient Experience Award from Healthgrades, a leading resource that helps people search, evaluate, compare and connect with physicians and hospitals.

The award places Wise Regional in the top 5 percent nationally for patient satisfaction.

Healthgrades evaluated 3,582 hospitals which submit patient surveys to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), covering admissions from March 2012 through April 2013. Of these, 3,000 hospitals met additional clinical quality requirements to be considered for this Healthgrades distinction.

“We are extremely proud to receive this award,” said Steve Summers, CEO of Wise Regional Health System. “It further validates the tremendous efforts our staff and physicians put forth every day to provide the very best medical care and a hospital experience that exceeds our patients’ expectations.”

Healthgrades evaluated Wise Regional’s performance as assessed by the hospital’s patients across 27 different questions that encompass 10 distinct measures. Ranging from cleanliness and noise levels in a patient room to factors such as pain management and responsiveness to patients’ needs, the measures also include whether a patient would recommend this hospital to friends or family.

“As consumers are becoming more active participants in their healthcare, measured performance surrounding the patient experience at a hospital is an increasingly important consideration for patients in choosing where to receive their care,” said Evan Marks, executive vice president of Informatics and Strategy for Healthgrades. “Consumers can rest assured that these hospitals demonstrate a commitment to exceptional focus on the needs of the patient during their stay.”

This national recognition, determined by clinical excellence across multiple service lines, and direct patient feedback about quality of care provided, is further validation that Wise Regional is meeting its goal of providing a high level of care and service.

For more information about how Healthgrades determined recipients of the annual award, a full copy of the report is available for download at:

Posted in News0 Comments

Wise Regional ranks high in safety survey

Wise Regional Health System had top scores among North Texas hospitals in a recent Consumer Reports study on hospital safety.

The maximum score was 100, and the highest score for any hospital in the country was 78. Wise Regional scored a 56, ranking it 12th among 47 hospitals in North Texas. The national average was 51.

The annual Consumer Reports list of hospital rankings uses federal data to grade 2,591 U.S. hospitals on their patient care, overall safety and capacity to save lives. It includes measures of patient outcomes (avoiding infections, readmissions, avoiding mortality, and adverse events in surgical patients), patient experience (including communication about hospital discharge, communication about drug information and other measures) and hospital practices (appropriate use of scanning, and use of electronic health records). Several of these measures are then combined to create a safety score.

“I’m tremendously proud of our standing on the Consumer Reports list,” said Stephen Summers, CEO of Wise Regional Health System. “Wise Regional has worked diligently to provide the best possible care to our patients, and we have received regional and national awards and accreditations for these efforts.”

Some of the highlights from the report included:

  • Wise Regional reported only one surgical-site infection in 93 surgical procedures among its patients between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. This is 51 percent better than national rates for the surgical procedures reported by other hospitals.
  • 97 percent of patients said that doctors always or usually communicated well.
  • 98 percent of patients said that nurses always or usually communicated well.
  • 95 percent of patients said that their pain was always or usually well controlled.

Wise Regional also ranked higher than other hospitals nationally for appropriate use of abdominal scanning and chest scanning. Only 7 percent of scanned patients received double abdominal chest scans and only 1 percent of scanned patients received double chest scans.

Wise Regional has two campuses on Farm Road 51 South in Decatur, another in Bridgeport and a new one about to open on North Tarrant Parkway, off Interstate Highway 35 in Fort Worth.

Posted in News0 Comments

Hospital directors get facilities review

Among the news flashes you hope you never hear from a hospital are “fire,” “tornado,” “hostage situation,” “power failure” and “active shooter.”

But you can be sure that Wise Regional Health System has a plan in place for all those situations, and a few more.

As part of an annual facilities review presented to the hospital’s board Monday evening, David Wright, vice president for facilities, reviewed those kinds of plans as part of the array of possibilities Wise Regional may have to deal with.

“The emergency operations plan is about 30 pages,” he said. “It covers just about every contingency we can think of outside of the typical, routine things we respond to. This could be anything – internal or external, a major equipment malfunction or service outage, or it could be a mass casualty event or a terrorism-related event.”

Part of Wright’s job is to anticipate virtually every scenario and plan for it. The hospital has personnel who are trained to deal with those types of events, but they also involve local law enforcement agencies in the planning and practice drills for each location.

“We have an organizational structure in the hospital by area of expertise and names assigned to those, and we exercise that plan twice a year,” Wright said. “It’s pretty involved, and there’s a lot of activity that goes along with doing that. That plan is under perpetual inspection and update.”

Wright’s report covered things like hazardous materials, fire safety, weather-related emergencies, hostage situations – even what would happen if someone attempted to abduct a baby from the nursery.

And with the imminent opening of the new Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital on Interstate 35 at North Tarrant Parkway in Fort Worth, all those plans have to be in place at four campuses: Parkway, the east and west campuses in Decatur and the Bridgeport campus.

“There’s a lot of activity, as you can imagine,” he said. “Security threats are everywhere.”

In addition to disaster planning, Wright’s report on the overall “environment of care” also include tracking maintenance on the medical equipment at each campus and a host of other items.

“Most of these are perpetual plans,” he said. “They live and breathe every day. We make changes to these as conditions may change.”

One of the more routine items he’s looking at is “alarm fatigue” among nurses.

“That’s one of the hottest topics in health care equipment this year,” he told the board. “It’s when nurses have fatigue from all the different types of equipment you find up and down the floor – whether it be an IV pump, a patient monitor, a respirator or something like that – all these different alarms going off throughout the day.”

He said there’s a nationwide effort going on to review the various alarms and get rid of the ones that aren’t critical to patient care.


A financial report showed the hospital posted a decrease in net assets of $466,000 for the month of February on gross patient charges and other revenues of $40 million. CFO Jim Eaton said both inpatient and outpatient volumes were down from the previous month.

The Parkway surgical center showed a net loss of $172,000 for the month. It is expected to open for patients sometime in April.

The Bridgeport campus had higher surgery volumes, but showed a loss of $93,208 for the month of January. That deepened to $207,000 in February after a decline of 33 percent in ER volume. Eaton said personnel there could not pinpoint any one cause for the drop, but he speculated that perhaps flu cases, which were high in January, tapered off in February.

“It looks about the same this month [March] as it did in February – lower than it has been,” he said. “Cash decreased about $1.5 million – down to 108 days – mostly due to improvements and capital equipment purchases for Parkway and Decatur.”

Chief Operations Officer Leon Fuqua noted Wise Regional has approximately 600 surgeries scheduled and completed for the month of March, which puts it a little ahead year-to-date over last year.

Eaton also noted a donation of $245,000 from Wise Regional Health Foundation in February to offset the cost of the new digital mammography machine that was purchased for the Woman’s Center.

New Board Members

NEW BOARD MEMBERS – Wise Regional Health System CEO Steve Summers welcomed two new members to the Decatur Hospital Authority board at Monday night’s meeting. From left are Dana Manoushagian, Summers and Ray Cook. Cook, a CPA in Bridgeport and a former member of the hospital’s board, was appointed by the Decatur City Council in January to fill a vacant seat. Manoushagian, a Bridgeport attorney, was named to the board this month after the resignation of Lesa Warren. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel


Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers reported on several ongoing issues to the board. Among them:

  • He noted Wise Regional’s Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Services did very well in its final review by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation.
  • He said a study by the Hospital Authority’s bond adviser concluded that the Authority could achieve approximately $3 million in savings by refinancing the current bonds. He said he has contacted the law firm of Fullbright and Jaworski, and “we’re going in that direction.”
  • He pointed out that several policy changes have to be reviewed and updated to be sure their language includes the new Parkway surgical center.
  • He suggested moving the board’s April meeting to the 21st rather than April 28, due to a conflict with a meeting. The board agreed.

Board president Andrew Sandford nominated board member Ray Cook to the Wise Health Services board to fill the unexpired portion of Lesa Warren’s three-year term.

The board also:

  • tabled a proposal to construct an underground drainage system on the Decatur West Campus that would be cost shared on an equal basis with Aamir Zuberi, MD, who owns the building. WRHS is likely to put their part of the property, which is used for outpatient dialysis service, up for sale and would like to coordinate the sale and the drainage improvement.
  • approved both a sublease and management agreement with MVP Alliance, LP for the imaging center, equipment and operation of the center nearby the Parkway hospital facility.
  • approved the purchase of six Fukuda Denshi monitors, at a cost of $165,185, for patient rooms in the Emergency Department to better monitor higher acuity patients as the need has grown.

Posted in News0 Comments

Hospital board to meet Monday

Three days before a grand opening reception at Parkway Surgical & Cardiovascular Hospital, the Decatur Hospital Authority board will approve contracts to equip and operate the imaging center near the hospital at Interstate Highway 35 and North Tarrant Parkway in Fort Worth.

Those are two of the items on the agenda for a 6 p.m. Monday meeting at the hospital board room at Wise Regional Health System.

MVP Alliance, LP is the company that will lease the equipment to Wise Regional and provide services to operate the imaging center.

The board is also expected to approve the construction of an underground drainage system on the West Campus in Decatur – the former main hospital facility located across SH 51 from the hospital. Wise Regional will share the cost of that construction with Dr. Aamir Zuberi, who owns the building which is currently used for WRHS outpatient dialysis service.

The hospital’s share of the cost is $64,960.

The board will also consider the purchase of six monitors that will enable six of the ER patient rooms at the hospital to be used for higher-acuity patients. Pricetag for those is a total of $165,185, which was budgeted.

The hospital’s annual Infection Control and Quality Improvement plans are also up for approval, along with new medical staff appointments, reappointments and first-year reviews, administrative and financial reports and a proposed change to move the April meeting to the third Monday.

The board will also consider a nursing policy on patient transfers and appoint a member to the Wise Health Services, Inc. board to complete the three-year term of Lesa Warren, who resigned from the hospital board last month.

Posted in Uncategorized0 Comments

Wise Regional earns renewal of Chest Pain Center accreditation

The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) has renewed Wise Regional Health System’s accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) it was announced this week.

SCPC-accredited facilities demonstrate expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with heart attack symptoms. The accreditation process includes rigorous evaluation of Wise Regional’s ability to assess, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.

Wise Regional has been continuously accredited by the SCPC since 2011. Facilities are evaluated every three years to determine whether their accreditation will be extended.

Accreditation acknowledges WRHS works to provide its community with the best possible cardiac care, by:

  • reducing the time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis and treatment;
  • treating patients more quickly during the critical window of time when the integrity of the heart muscle can be preserved; and
  • monitoring patients when it is not certain that they are having a heart attack to ensure that they are not sent home too quickly or needlessly admitted to the hospital.

“This was our second time to be evaluated for reaccreditation. The bar is raised each cycle,” said Lee Ann Cummings, director of Wise Regional’s Emergency Department. “We are excited that the SCPC once again recognized the effort we’ve put into caring for our patients and educating our community.”

WRHS offers a comprehensive cardiac program with many of the same services and technologies patients would find at Metroplex facilities. In 2013 physicians performed nearly 1,000 catheterization procedures and more than 65 open-heart surgeries, including several minimally invasive procedures, at Wise Regional.

Wise Regional also continues to look for opportunities to improve treatment for cardiac patients. Earlier this year, WRHS became the second hospital system in the country to use the STOP STEMI application – a cellphone app designed to help efficiently contact and connect health care professionals when a patient experiences a heart attack known as a STEMI.

The recent SCPC accreditation survey emphasized community education. Wise Regional is engaged in a campaign focusing on Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC). The national EHAC campaign was developed by Dr. Raymond Bahr, who is also the founder of SCPC and aims to educate community members about the early symptoms of heart attacks, so they can seek medical intervention sooner.

In February, Wise Regional hosted the third annual Heart Health Expo with an emphasis on Early Heart Attack Care.

“People tend to wait when they think they might be having a heart attack, and that’s a mistake,” said Cummings. “The average patient arrives in the emergency department more than two hours after the onset of symptoms, but what they don’t realize is that the sooner a heart attack is treated, the less damage to the heart and the better the outcome for the patient.”

Staff members from the admissions and emergency departments, critical care unit, cardiac catheterization laboratory, cardiac rehabilitation, and medical and surgical unit, as well as Wise County EMS, were actively involved with preparing for the accreditation visit. Even the hospital’s mascot, Hooty the Healthwise Owl, participated by handing out EHAC-themed magnets on March 7, the day of the survey.

Wise Regional will be up for its next renewal in 2017.

Posted in News0 Comments

Keeping cool at crunch time; Exercise system puts cowboys, cardiac patients in motion

What do astronauts, professional rodeo cowboys and heart patients have in common?

All have been using the Vasper system – possibly the next big thing in exercise, performance training and rehabilitation.

There are only five locations in the world where the system is in use, and one of those happens to be Wise Regional’s Fit-n-Wise facility in Decatur, where it arrived last October.

Cold Workout

COLD WORKOUT – Susan Rector demonstrates use of the Vasper system at Wise Regional’s Fit-n-Wise facility in Decatur. It is one of only five locations for the machines in the United States. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“You know how when you lift weights and your muscles feel pumped afterwards?” Susan Rector said. “Since I’ve been using this I feel that way all the time.”

Rector, the director of cardiac rehab at Wise Regional Health System, has decades of experience helping rehabilitate heart patients. Some of these patients are elderly and sick, making many types of exercise and therapy dangerous and off-limits.

“I think this will more or less revolutionize everything we’ve been doing,” she said. “People who weren’t able to exercise safely before will now be able to.”

Thanks to efforts by Jeffrey R. Gladden, MD/FACC, founder and director of the cardiovascular program at Wise Regional, Rector has been able to introduce her heart rehab patients to Vasper. Dr. Gladden first learned of the Vasper system last year while attending a medical conference in California.

He was instantly intrigued.

“It was created by Peter Wasow-ski,” Gladden said, “as a way to treat his own osteoarthritis. But he discovered it had an exceptional training effect with regard to people’s exercise capacity.

“I was blown away by the physiology behind it,” he said. “I began to think how I could apply it to cardiology both in treating cardiac patients and in enhancing mine and other cardiovascular performance.

“Being a cardiologist, I wanted to see how it worked with patients going through cardio rehab and [if it] could enhance their gains in exercise capacity and stamina compared to traditional cardiac rehab.”

The Vasper system is used with a Nustep exercise machine, which resembles the recumbent elliptical machines widely used for exercise and rehab. But it’s the Vasper system that makes the exercise so beneficial, combining several tried-and-true techniques of exercise to augment the benefits and minimize the risk.

A bundle of tubes transports refrigerated water through cuffs bound tightly around the thighs and arms of the user. The compression cuffs restrict venous blood flow.

Restricting blood flow from the muscles during exercise results in increased lactic acid production and helps enhance muscle size and strength. It’s a technique that has been used for years, but the problem was always that too much compression exaggerated muscle damage and caused intense pain.

This machine remedies that by using cold water and cuffs that are are tightened only to a comfortable level. The water flows through the cuff and creates the compression, but at 40 degrees, it also relieves the inflammation and helps eliminate post-exercise muscle soreness.

“Depending on what pressure is selected, you may start to feel the ‘burn’ within a minute or less, especially in the quads,” Rector said. “You trap that lactic acid, and that stimulates a local and systemic anabolic effect. Your pituitary gland creates growth hormone and anabolic hormones to strengthen the muscle in response to the lactic acid – but because of the cool water running through the cuffs it is easier to tolerate the burn.

“Overall, it reduces the inflammation,” Rector continued. “Your body thinks you are producing more lactic acid than you would doing other exercises, because of this concentration effect, but you can’t feel it as much as you would otherwise.

“It can be a real intense workout or gentle enough for a 90-year-old – and because of the cooling you’re not pouring sweat afterwards.”

There are benefits for both the intense and mild exerciser.

Electromagnetic grounding and cooling is used in the foot pedals, to prevent static electricity from being produced while exercising.

“That reduces free radicals in your body that wreak havoc on you from exercise,” Rector said. “Most people report feeling better – more energy. A lot of people report sleeping better.”

Vasper exercise protocols are based on interval training – periods of high intensity, called a sprint, followed by a leisurely recovery period. The machine uses varying lengths of sprints and intensities over a 20-minute workout. The exercise session is then followed by a 10-minute cool-down period spent lying on a chilled table.

“It’s a short burst of high intensity, then you recover, and you go again,” Rector said. “You can boost your cardiovascular fitness better that way than you will by just going along at steady pace. You also burn a lot more calories.”

“The catch-phrase is, it does two hours’ worth of exercise in only 20 minutes,” Dr. Gladden said. “It’s a dramatic effect, and you don’t have to beat yourself up to do it. The common attitude is ‘no pain, no gain’ – but this builds you up without all the pain.”

“You can do this, and then immediately walk into the gym and do a full workout,” Rector said. “And you’ll probably do better in the gym because your growth hormone and anabolic hormones are at a high level … Some of the research found it basically balances your endocrine system and gets all your hormones optimized to their proper levels.”

The system has been used by Navy SEALs, NASA astronauts, Olympic athletes, professional hockey players and locally, by high school athletes, professional rodeo cowboys, Iron Man triathlon competitors, spinal cord injury patients, several types of rehab patients and cardiac patients.

In space, without the constant pull of the earth’s gravity, muscle tissue tends to deteriorate at a rapid rate.

“Now, astronauts train for two to three hours a day while in space to try and keep muscle mass, but they still lose it,” Rector said. “And so they are adapting this for space because the protocol only takes 20 minutes. At some point this will go to the international space station.”

It also does wonders down here on Earth.

“There was one man in his 50s who ran an Iron Man at Kona in Hawaii,” Gladden said. “He wanted to compete in another Iron Man in Arizona just five weeks later, which isn’t a lot of time to recover. He started using the Vasper three days a week. When he competed in the [second] Iron Man he posted a personal record, taking 30 minutes off his best time.”

In return for getting to be one of only a handful of places in the world with Vasper technology, Rector and Gladden have been collecting data, especially on how it affects heart patients.

“If the highest-risk group can rapidly improve and use this safely, it can be used widespread in cardio rehab,” Rector said. “Just from what I’ve seen, I think, especially for someone starting at the very bottom, they will progress much more rapidly here than they would out in the gym.”

“I’ve seen it take people who could barely use walkers who are now able to climbs stairs,” Dr. Gladden said. “We have to wait for the results of the study to tell the whole story, but we are already seeing people make significant gains. It’s helping people reclaim their lives.”

Kim Emery, aquatics manager at Fit-n-Wise, has been using the Vasper for two weeks now. She’s one of the many test subjects taking part in the studies.

“I can tell a huge difference,” Emery said. “I have much more energy. I’m in less pain. I can run up a flight of stairs now. It’s pretty amazing. I love that it’s only 20 minutes.

“It’s like a high-intensity training. You go 30 seconds really hard and then 90 seconds to rest. During the 30 seconds, because I’m not in shape, it’s really hard. But what I like is, I can push myself harder on this than I would out in the gym. I’ve learned what it’s like to work to my capacity, to work hard.”

“She can’t wimp out,” Rector said.

Right now, the Vasper at Fit-n-Wise is being used only by cardiac patients and a few others.

Dr. Gladden expects it to be available for use by the general public sometime in the second quarter of this year, most likely at hospitals, universities, high schools and gyms.

You can even buy one for yourself for about $20,000.

Not a bad price for the next big thing.

Posted in News0 Comments

Parkway hospital to open in mid-April

It looks like Wise Regional Health System will open its new Parkway Surgical Hospital around mid-April.

That was the latest word to the hospital’s board of directors at their Monday evening meeting. The facility, located on North Tarrant Parkway just off Interstate 35 North in Tarrant County, will be the system’s first venture outside Wise County.

Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers said the facility passed a state inspection and could be turned over to the new owners any day. The first patient services should be offered around mid-April after the staff is in place and all the new equipment is up and running.

“There’s another inspection by the state once we start services,” he said.

At a cost of $12.8 million, the nearly 30,000-square-foot facility is expected to employ 35 full-time people and account for more than 800 outpatient surgical procedures in its first nine months of operation.

Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital will offer surgical services in spine, orthopedics, cardiology, vascular, podiatry, plastic surgery, pain, bariatrics and gastroenterology. Wise Regional is leasing the building, with an option to buy it within three years.

While most of the equipment is in place, the board Monday voted to purchase required ancillary equipment – a table and navigation components – for the previously-approved Neurologica Body Tom CT unit for the Parkway hospital.

Summers said they had originally planned to wait to purchase the additional equipment – at a price tag of $250,890 – to go with the $800,000 CT scanner. But, he said, the pricing was contingent on the entire unit being purchased.

The board also approved purchasing a new bio-hazard sterilization system for the Decatur hospital at a cost of $68,895. The old one is rusting and needs to be replaced as quickly as possible, Summers said.

The board also approved five new appointments to the medical staff, 11 bi-annual reappointment reviews, and nine first-year reviews.


Chief financial officer Jim Eaton gave the board a financial overview, painting an encouraging picture with the hospital system’s January numbers looking strong.

Net assets for the Decatur hospital increased by $930,000 in January on gross revenues of $43 million. Eaton said inpatient volume was up 20 percent, with an average daily patient census of 78 compared to 62 in December and 63 the previous January.

Outpatient services were up 7 percent, mostly due to physical therapy and imaging services.

The Bridgeport campus, which stopped offering inpatient services at the end of November, lost only $92,000 in January – covering all of its variable costs and more than half of its fixed costs. The loss was the lowest since Wise Regional began operating the facility last May.

Including subsidiaries Wise Clinical Care Associates and Wise Health Services, WRHS had consolidated revenues in excess of expenses of approximately $706,000 for January.

Eaton also presented a report on the system’s compliance program.

The board met in closed session to discuss the annual performance evaluation and compensation for the CEO.

Posted in News0 Comments

McQuiston elected United Way president

Mike McQuiston, human resources director for Wise Regional Health System, was elected president of the Wise County United Way at the organization’s annual meeting at the Decatur Civic Center Thursday.

He succeeds Andrew Rottner, president of North Texas Bank.

United Way Executive Director Martin Woodruff said the campaign had raised $410,000 of its $450,000 goal during last year’s fund drive.

“We’ll probably end up at $420,000 or $425,000 before its over, and that is better than the past couple of years,” Woodruff said.

Devon Energy Corp., its employees and suppliers were presented the Diamond Recognition Award. The combined groups gave $236,000 to last year’s campaign, Woodruff said.

Platinum Awards for gifts between $25,000 and $49,000 were presented to Entergis Corp. and Poco Graphite employees and WC Challenger Charities, producers of the annual Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event. Woodruff said the $25,000 gift from PBR helps defray office expenses.

“We remain at about 10 percent expenses against revenue raised,” he said.

Other new officers elected included Sabrina Easley of Oncor, vice president and campaign chairman; Michael Petty of Devon Energy, vice president and allocations chairman; Barbara Haley, vice president of communications; Steve Summers, treasurer; and Kim Lawson, nominating committee chairman.

New and returning directors include Laura Abseck, Wendell Berry Jr., Bob Fothergill, Wayne Harveson, Karolyn Kinsey, Stacie Meadows, Dorothy Shepherd, Rod Townsend, Carey Williams, Haley, Lawson, Petty and Summers.

Also elected were Chico Mayor J.D. Clark, Leah Geeslin of Pipeline Plastics, Noel Ruddick of GTG Solutions, Steve Sims of First Financial Bank and Ted West of Boyd ISD.

In addition to Rottner, Andrew Sandford is retiring as head of the allocations committee. Both will remain on the United Way board.

“It’s simply an honor to serve as your new president,” McQuiston said. “I want to thank you all for loving your neighbors. You make this a great place to live and work.”

United Way allocations to 29 “partner agencies” totaled $436,120 in 2013, with the largest amount, $67,000, going to the Wise Area Relief Mission (WARM). South Wise Services received $34,000 and the Wise County Committee on Aging $27,000. Receiving $25,000 allocations were the Wise County Community Health Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Wise and Jack Counties and a program called Launchability.

Posted in News0 Comments

Electronic medical records up and running

Doctors at Wise Regional Health System are posting an average of 1,800 orders per day electronically, using the new electronic medical records system installed over the past year.

The hospital’s board of directors got that information in a report at its Jan. 27 meeting from Jennifer Graham, director of clinical and ancillary applications.

Graham said the installation of the paperless electronic health information system was a significant step in meeting federal requirements that all health-care providers convert to electronic medical records.

Wise Regional has installed more than 80 new computer terminals throughout the facility for use by physicians and nurses to both input and access patient information. Technical staff is on call around the clock to support the system, which is backed up nightly and is also backed up off-site on a monthly basis.

Graham said despite the large amount of changes involved, the system is working well.

Implementation of that system, along with equipment purchases for the new Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital in Fort Worth, accounted for most of the $8 million increase in capital purchases the hospital system saw last year, according to Chief Financial Officer Jim Eaton.

Eaton noted the system posted an $800,000 gain from operations in December, with the net loss from the Bridgeport facility falling to $237,000. That reflects the cutback in services there to emergency and outpatient only.


CEO Steve Summers reported the board will be having a retreat in the next few months to review the recent Community Health Needs Assessment and discuss planning for the hospital system’s future growth.

He noted plans for a new Air Evac headquarters have been sent to the city of Decatur and said he expects the helicopter ambulance system will start building as soon as approvals are received. The addition, which will be in a separate building, will create more room inside the hospital for the expansion of the outpatient imaging department.

Board member Mark Duncum reported the hospital continues to work toward refinancing $55 million of its bonded debt – approximately 75 percent of the total – with the remaining 25 percent to be refinanced in September. Rating agencies have been invited to consider the hospital’s bond rating.

A lower, investment-grade bond rating would substantially reduce the hospital’s interest payments.

The building committee is also looking at future facilities requirements in Decatur and believes within the next four to five years, additional beds and surgical space will be needed on the main campus. To meet that need, the refinancing project calls for $10 million in new debt that would be used to construct a new physical therapy/sports medicine/fitness facility.

That facility, located in a stand-alone building on the hospital campus, would free up significant space in the north wing of the hospital, which could then be used for an expansion of beds and surgery space.


  • Summers told the board an unannounced inspection of the Intensive Outpatient Program at Behavioral Health Services by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation resulted in only six recommendations out of 1,200 standards the unit is required to meet.
  • Chief nursing officer Sue Sewell noted that Wise Regional employs 322 RNs, 64 LVNs and 157 ancillary nursing employees in 12 departments. She said the facility handled 7,696 surgical cases in 2013 – a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

The board also:

  • approved replacing two air handler units on the West Campus at a cost of $317,510, and OK’d another $2,967,366 to purchase additional equipment for the Parkway facility, including an $800,000 portable CT unit.
  • approved recruiting a neurosurgeon to provide services at both the Decatur and Parkway campuses.
  • approved new appointments to the medical staff based on the recommendations of the Medical Executive Committee and accepted the medical staff’s annual review of various medical service contracts.

The board’s next meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, in the administration board room at 609 Medical Center Drive in Decatur. The meetings are open to the public.

Posted in News0 Comments

Community Health Clinic begins extended hours

Wise County now has a new after-hours health care provider.

The Clinical Care Associates Community Health Clinic in Decatur is now open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Previously, the clinic was only open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

New Look

NEW LOOK – Lisa Read, director of clinic operations, and Paul Aslin, chief operating officer of Wise Clinical Care Associates show off some of the new signs at the Clinical Care Associates Community Health Clinic. The clinic began evening and weekend hours this week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The clinic is able to offer the extended hours because it has added a second provider. Laura Moore, a nurse practitioner, has been serving since last October. On Monday, Alissa Sobieraj, a physician assistant, also began work at the clinic.

The Community Health Clinic has operated as a branch of Wise Regional Health System’s Clinical Care Associates since Oct. 1 of last year. Prior to that it had been run by North Texas Area Community Health Centers Inc.

While the clinic was created in early 2012 mostly with local funds in hopes of being federally funded, it did not qualify for federal grants. Wise Regional stepped in to keep the facility open.

“Our community clinic is a good way to reach out to our Wise County community, not only to help the insured but the uninsured,” said Lisa Read, director of clinic operations. “Our main purpose or goal is to reach out to that uninsured population.”

The clinic also accepts Medicare and Medicaid.

Patients are billed for services based on a sliding scale according to family size and income levels. If the patient is still unable to pay, they will not be turned away according to Paul Aslin, chief operating officer of Wise Clinical Care Associates.

Because it no longer receives federal funds, the clinic must rely on donations to make up the difference.

While the clinic typically sees between 120 and 150 patients a month currently, that could increase to about 400 now that a second provider is on the job, Aslin said.

The Community Health Clinic is located in the old emergency room on the WRHS West Campus, 2000 S. Farm Road 51. Its new phone number is 940-626-3888.

For information on the clinic or the services offered, visit

To make a donation to the clinic, call the number listed above.

Posted in News0 Comments

Extending its footprint: Wise Regional’s Parkway hospital nears opening on I-35 in Fort Worth

The announcement was made in August 2012, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held that fall.

Wise Regional Health System’s board has been approving equipment orders for more than a year.

The WRHS website even touts it – “Opening in 2014!”

Big Cath Lab

BIG CATH LAB – Folks get a tour of the cath lab at Parkway Hospital, off I-35 in Fort Worth. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

But until you step through the doors of Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital, located off Interstate 35 at North Tarrant Parkway, you don’t fully grasp that the Decatur-based health care system will soon be operating a state-of-the-art surgery center outside of Wise County.

The new Parkway Hospital is in Tarrant County, one exit north of the intersection of U.S. 81/287 and I-35. It is designed to serve the booming Alliance area, the focus of much of the Metroplex’s growth over the last decade.

But it will certainly boost medical care in Wise County, too.

For one, it should be a profit center, with a higher percentage of private-pay patients that will help WRHS continue to provide care in Decatur, Bridgeport and throughout its service area.

The facility will also allow WRHS physicians to perform procedures they can’t currently offer in Decatur – a benefit for doctors and patients.

Delicate Operation

DELICATE OPERATION – A worker makes his way through the post-op area at Wise Regional’s Parkway surgical hospital, which is slated to open this spring. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The nearly 30,000-square-foot hospital has four operating rooms, two procedure rooms including a cavernous cath lab and 12 inpatient beds. It also has a kitchen, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology and preoperative services as well as an emergency room.

Denise Scurlock, administrative director for the new facility, just came over from Baylor Jan. 2. She is excited about the hospital.

READY TO OPEN – Denise Scarlock, administration director, is excited about the new hospital’s opening this spring. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It’s beautiful,” she said on a tour this week. “I’m very impressed with the work and the detail they’ve put into this.”

The building is getting the final touches now – most of the equipment is either in place or sitting in boxes awaiting installation as workers drop in ceiling tiles, check plumbing and get various other systems up and running. After the punch-list and site work are completed, Wise Regional will get the keys and work for a few more weeks before opening to the public sometime in March or April.

“I’m very impressed with all they’ve done,” Scurlock said. “It’s amazing.”

The Parkway hospital will provide surgical services in spine, orthopedic, cardiology, plastic surgery, pain and gastroenterology. It’s built to be expandable – three more ORs and 12 more patient rooms could be added quickly if the expected growth materializes. And while Wise Regional is leasing the building to start, they have an option to buy it within three years.

Scurlock said the facility is designed around patients.

“It’s patient-centered to make sure it flows in a way that’s best for the patients and the physicians and what they’re really ultimately here to do,” she said. “The primary focus is on that.”

Families will find the patient rooms noticeably bigger than in most hospitals, and the appointments are first-class. But it’s a doctor’s dream, too.

“Any cardiac physician would come into that cath lab and their jaw would drop,” Scurlock said, noting the size, the lighting, equipment for anesthesiology and X-ray.

“This is equipment that not a lot of cath labs have in this area,” she said. “This is an upgrade even from what they’re able to do at Wise Regional in Decatur.”

But, she pointed out, it’s the same hospital, operating under the same license with the same staff.

“They’ll also be putting in devices, pacemakers, also diagnostic heart caths, stent placements – there’s a plan to grow this entire hospital as time goes on.”

The hospital will also offer minimally invasive spine, pain surgery, plastic surgery, vascular surgery, bariatric surgery, orthopedics and podiatry.

Also under construction on the site are several physicians’ office buildings – including space for a Fit-N-Wise fitness center and therapy location.

Parkway Surgical Hospital, which was projected to cost $12.8 million, is expected to employ 35 full-time people and account for more than 800 outpatient surgical procedures in its first nine months of operation in 2014.

Posted in News0 Comments

Speed saves: Medical app gets first test on New Year’s Day

If you have a heart attack, it won’t be a fast ambulance, a big hospital or high-tech gadgets that save your life.

It will be people.

But if you live in Wise County, you can be sure those people will have fast ambulances, a big hospital and some really high-tech gadgets – including a new application for their smartphones.

ON THE CLOCK – Wise County EMS Paramedics show the iPad with the Stop STEMI app opened on the screen. The application notifies the team and speeds the process of getting a heart attack victim into the cath lab for a lifesaving medical procedure. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

On New Year’s Day at 4 a.m., Wise Regional Health System’s heart-attack response team for the first time used this new “app” that helps speed up response times when someone has a STEMI – a heart attack caused by a prolonged blockage of blood supply to the heart muscle.

Heart attacks – myocardial infarctions, or MI’s – are always emergencies, but most can be treated with medication. But a STEMI, which creates a distinctive signature on an electrocardiogram (EKG), requires more drastic action. Those patients go to the cath lab, where a cardiologist inserts a “wire” up through the femoral artery into the clogged vessel, then unclogs it with a balloon – angioplasty – or a stent that props the vessel open.

Until that’s done, the heart muscle continues to suffer damage.

Lee Ann Cummings, registered nurse and director of the ER at Wise Regional, explained that on an EKG, a STEMI looks like a tombstone (see graphic at right).

“That means the heart is starving for oxygen, and you are infarcting,” she said. “Anytime there’s a STEMI and we’re watching it, that is emergent. That is actual damage being done to the heart muscle, and we want that to come down.”

The Stop STEMI app, developed by CommuniCare Technology, based in Longview, is designed to streamline communication among caregivers and reduce the time between the first medical contact with the patient and the restoration of normal blood flow to the heart. The program shares critical patient information among paramedics, the emergency department, the cath lab team, cardiologists and the cardiac care unit.

Cummings said the new app is simple and visual.

“EMS responds on the scene, they do an EKG, they take a picture of the EKG, put in the patient’s first name, last name, age and gender and boom! They send it to us,” she said. “The ER charge nurse logs in with her iPad with the STEMI app, and then a siren goes off. They look at it and acknowledge it. If Wise County EMS is telling us it’s a STEMI, we’re going with it.”

One of its key features is a clock that shows everyone involved exactly how long they’ve been working on the patient.

The national standard is to have a cardiac intervention done within 90 minutes. That clock used to start when the patient entered the hospital, but now it starts at the first medical contact.

On New Year’s Day, the Wise Regional team did it in 82 minutes.

“That’s good considering it was 4 o’clock in the morning on a holiday,” Cummings said.

ER Manager Kellye Souther, RN, said Wise Regional is only the second hospital to use the Stop STEMI app, which just came out last fall.

It was a connection with one of the company’s top people that brought the app here.


Shane Elmore, RN, is the director of business development for CommuniCare.

“I worked in the ICU, the ER and flew out of Wise Regional with Air Evac for about a year-and-a-half,” he said. He left in September 2011 and went to work at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, focusing on STEMI cases. Last September Dr. James Woodson, M.D., who heads up CommuniCare, came and presented the app there.

“I was blown away by this product,” Elmore said. “We started using it, and I immediately thought Wise Regional was the perfect place because of the ER staff, you have Advanced Heart Care with the cardiologists and the ongoing relationship with Wise County EMS.”

Woodson, a board-certified ER physician, and Elmore are now both full-time with CommuniCare, which is releasing the Stop STEMI app nationwide.

“The traditional way, all this information is going to go through two or three gatekeepers,” Elmore said. “With this, they all get it at the same time. Everyone sees that clock, and everyone knows where they are in the process.

“It unites the team.”

When someone calls 911, an ambulance is dispatched. Depending on where they are in Wise County’s 923 square miles, it can be 20 minutes or so before paramedics arrive.

When they determine the patient is having a heart attack, paramedics follow protocols that include administering certain medications and doing an EKG. They take a picture of the printout with their phone and send it to the ER along with the patient’s name, age and gender.

If it’s a STEMI, a lot of people start scrambling.

Cummings said this is where the Stop STEMI app eliminates a lot of little time-wasters.

“In the past, cath lab calls down, ‘Do you know the name? Do you know the age? Do you know how far out they are?'” she said. “With this app, everybody sees that information, including the EKG. It uses GPS and tells us an estimated time of arrival.”

Eliminating all that calling and checking saves valuable time – and lives.


Cummings and Souther have high praise for Wise County EMS and the way they and hospital personnel work together.

“The EMS here is so amazing,” Cummings said. “That’s what’s so different about our program.”

WCEMS follows the same protocols as Wise Regional ER – they even use the same IV pumps and lines, so those don’t have to be changed once the patient arrives. They also train together, and several EMS personnel work in the hospital when they’re not on the ambulance.

The end result, for patients, is a team that’s all on the same page.

“A lot of places, no one can agree,” she said. “You have different EMS systems and whatnot, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ll give an aspirin and we’ll do this, but we’re not going to give all those meds.’ There’s all these little things that increase your times.”

Souther said that doesn’t happen here.

“Some people have to take it to the ER doctor and say, ‘Do you think the medics are right?’ but with us it’s like, if they say it’s a STEMI, it’s a STEMI,” she said.

“That’s why a lot of other places, their times are not as good because the ER docs are just not as cooperative,” Cummings said.

“The medics are wrong in other places, but our guys aren’t,” Souther added.

Charles Dillard, WCEMS director, said his service’s relationship with Wise Regional is “excellent.”

“When the paramedics say, ‘Hey, here’s what I’ve got,’ just off his word they’ve been able to go ahead and activate the STEMI team,” he said. “That’s not seen in a lot of other places. There’s a lot of trust that goes into that.”

EMS crews bring patients all the way into the cath lab, help get them set up and often observe the procedure – and come back the next day to check on the patients in the CCU.

Most of the new ER nurses do ride-alongs with the ambulances, too – “to see their world a little bit,” Souther said.

“They come to our meetings, we discuss cases with them and find ways to improve – and it’s usually not on their end,” Cummings said. “They really, really do a great job.”

Dillard said his people work hard to relay accurate information.

“We try to make sure the people on the ambulance are able to look at the monitor, read the monitor and determine that this is or is not a STEMI,” he said. “We don’t want to call up here 100 times and five of them are STEMIs, and they’ve already activated the team. You’d kind of wear them out after a while.

“They’re pretty good at recognizing when it does need to go to the cath lab.”

Cummings said like any relationship, both the hospital and the EMS people work at it.

“We have a mutual respect, and we work hard,” she said. “The medics and the nurses, there’s an expectation that you treat each other with respect and professionalism. There’s been some people who got in trouble because they spoke unkindly to each other. We call them on the carpet for it.”


Of the 1.4 million heart attacks each year in the United States, roughly 400,000 are STEMIs. Souther said few come with no warning.

“From being in the ER for 20 years, most people do not just all of a sudden have a heart attack,” she said. “There’s Rolaids in their truck, they’ve been eating Tums for days, they felt a little weak, they felt a little nauseous – they usually have symptoms for five days before they have a heart attack.

“There’s very few people who just have a heart attack and die. They ignore the symptoms.”

Souther said most people who come to the ER are given an EKG just to make sure what they’re feeling isn’t an early warning of a heart attack.

“We have some people who come in and say, ‘I just don’t feel right.’ They feel weak, just a general nausea, heartburn, flu-like symptoms, elbow pain, finger pain – if something feels weird and different, that you haven’t felt before, we’re going to check it out,” she said. “These people who come in just with a generalized weakness, flu – everybody pretty much gets an EKG during flu season.”

She said because of the skill and technology EMS brings, it’s important to call 911 and get an ambulance if you suspect a heart attack.

“It’s hard to get out to the public that you need to call the ambulance because they say, ‘I can beat the ambulance there.’ But when you call them, your care starts from your house.”

Cummings said the geographical area the Wise County EMS covers makes that even more critical.

“If they respond, they’re already starting on the scene, activating,” she said. “If it’s a 20-minute transport, the cath lab can be just about here, set up and ready to go – as opposed to you driving here, then we have to call cath lab.”

Souther said a campaign to increase awareness of heart problems and encourage calling 911 began about four years ago and has had good results.

“About 50 percent of our population were walk-ins with heart attacks, and now we’re down to about 40 or 30 percent who are walking in,” she said. “So we do have more patients calling 911.”

Last Wednesday’s patient, like most, said she wishes she’d come in sooner.

“She knew she didn’t feel quite right,” Souther said.

Of course, she had no idea she would be the first to use the new smartphone app.


Cath lab director Lacretia Miles, RN, said watching the app in action, even at 4 a.m., was riveting.

“I was home in bed,” she said. “It goes off at 4 in the morning. This is the first time we’ve used it. You log in, you see who all has responded, everybody’s on the go, we’re all getting set up.

“Typically, knowing that the team has arrived, I’m good. I’m going back to sleep.”

But not this time.

“You can see when the team is assembled, when the cath lab is ready – all these times are right there, visual. I’m just lying there watching it on my phone. I should have just come on in.

“Finally,” she said, “I put the phone back down and then I hear the ding. I pick the phone up and think, ‘OK!’ The device was deployed, everything’s OK.”

Miles said the phone provides a record, too, of the entire procedure – what happened and when – giving the team an opportunity to review and see where they can do better.

“We actually have the person who’s monitoring, documenting, watching our procedures – they actually have their smartphone right there in front of them,” she said. “Typically whenever the doctor is getting close to going down with the balloon, someone in the room circulating will say, here’s our time, and that monitor person will actually push a button on their phone and that’s going to alert everybody that this is open, there’s our time.”

Cummings said that ability to review is extremely valuable.

“They’ve been transmitting EKGs from the field for five years now,” she said. “We had that. But this puts another layer and makes us more efficient. Hopefully the patient, the family and everyone can understand that we’re timing ourselves.

“We’re hitting on-scene, STEMI confirmed, arrival to the ER, cath team responding, cardiologist arrived, time they go to the cath lab, time the lesion is crossed, time the case is over – we’re watching every single piece.”

Watching lives get saved by highly-trained people – with some high-tech toys.

Posted in News1 Comment

Top Stories of 2013 #2: Bridgeport hospital saga continues

The sale of the Bridgeport hospital to Wise Regional Health System concluded in 2013, but the story began years earlier.

And at year’s end, it was still unfolding.

North Texas Community Hospital opened in August of 2008 in Bridgeport, a state-of-the-art facility licensed for 35 beds. By May 2009, it was already in default on bonded debt of $59.1 million.

After years of financial struggles but high praise from patients, the hospital declared bankruptcy in November 2012 – having already secured an agreement with Wise Regional that they would enter a “stalking-horse” bid of $20 million to purchase it.

When the bidding ended in late January 2013, Wise Regional was the only bidder.

On Feb. 4, WRHS was awarded the bid. The hospital remained open until the new owner took over March 27, and the emergency department never closed throughout the transition and renovations. It reopened May 7 as Wise Regional Bridgeport.

Almost all of the hospital’s 200 employees were offered jobs at either Decatur or Bridgeport.

However, as the year progressed, patient volume at Bridgeport did not meet expectations, and the campus lost an average of $350,000 a month. In November, the Wise Regional board voted to suspend inpatient services on Dec. 1.

At year’s end, the Bridgeport facility was handling emergency and outpatient procedures only, although it continued to maintain its license as a full-service facility in hopes that the cutback would be temporary.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest changes occurred behind the scenes: Wise Regional granted obstetric privileges July 29 to family practice physicians who met certain criteria in experience and training.

A significant portion of the Bridgeport hospital’s patient volume had come from deliveries performed by those doctors, who intially were not credentialed to deliver babies at Wise Regional in Decatur. The change opened the door for those doctors to bring their patients to Decatur – and eliminated a major bone of contention that had arisen between the two facilities over the years.

Posted in News0 Comments

Gift from the heart: Couple journeys from Grenada to Decatur for  cardiac implant

Gift from the heart: Couple journeys from Grenada to Decatur for cardiac implant

At about 1:45 Wednesday afternoon, Rennie Matthews’ heart stopped.

Fortunately for the 46-year-old builder, he was on the table in Wise Regional Health System’s’ cardiac catheterization lab, surrounded by doctors, nurses, technicians and millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech medical equipment.

The heart stoppage was a test. Cardiologist Dr. Trieu Ho had just implanted a bi-ventricular defibrillator in his chest.

Post Surgery Smile

POST-SURGERY SMILE – Rennie Matthews of Grenada was feeling considerably better Thursday after getting a pacemaker implanted at Wise Regional Health System the day before. Rennie and his wife, Dale, journeyed here from Grenada for the procedure. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Big-screen monitors recorded the chaos as Rennie’s heart rhythm was disrupted. An instant later, the device administered an electrical shock that caused his body, although sleeping, to bounce on the table. His heartbeat resumed – and just like that, the procedure was over.

After an overnight stay in the hospital for observation, Rennie and his wife, Dale, went home the next day.

Sort of.

“Home” for Rennie and Dale is actually the island of Grenada, in the far southern reaches of the Caribbean just above Trinidad. They came to Decatur for the procedure and will return home a few days after Christmas.

The surgery, the implanted device, the hospital stay and even their room and meals while they’re here are all complimentary – an early Christmas gift from Wise Regional, some dedicated doctors, St. Jude’s Hospital, Candlewood Suites and a few other generous people.

Santa Docs

SANTA DOCS – Drs. Jason Finkelstein and Trieu Ho saw to it that Matthews got the medical care he needed. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The story that links Grenada and Decatur starts with Dr. Jason Finkelstein, a partner of Dr. Ho and several other physicians in Advanced Heart Care here. Dr. Finkelstein, a native of Long Island, N.Y., went to medical school at St. George’s University on Grenada and for years has participated in a program that brings graduates back there for a week a year to do free cardiac care.

“I’ve been doing this since 2008, myself and about 12 other doctors,” he said. “We see patients there on a volunteer basis because there is no full-time cardiologist on the island.

“During my time down there, the citizens were nice to me. I just wanted to try and give back to them.”


Grenada is a tiny island, 21 miles long and 12 miles wide, with only about 105,000 people. Originally a French colony, they have a democratic form of government and an economy that relies heavily on tourism.

CHRISTMAS GIFT – Dale Matthews waits as her husband gets ready for surgery Thursday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Most of the people speak English, but converse in a French creole patois. The temperature seldom gets below 80 or above 90.

Rennie’s wife Dale, a fifth-grade teacher, said it was November 2012 when her husband started complaining of shortness of breath. A local doctor said it was asthma and gave him inhalers, but he still had a hard time making the walk from the main road up to his house, about 120 feet.

“When he’s coming up the hill he would complain that he’s still having the shortness, and at work he couldn’t do anything much,” Dale said. “He would have to lie down and give orders.”

On Dec. 5 last year, they went to see Dr. Johansen Sylvester, coordinator of the adult cardiology program at St. George’s University.

“They admitted him, took his blood pressure, did an EKG, and then the doctor said it was really bad,” Dale said. “His heart was beating about 1 percent.”

They sent him home, planning to bring him back for further tests – but on Dec. 9 he suffered a heart attack.

“At about three minutes past six, I heard someone struggle to call my name,” she said. “When I look I saw him, so I rush him to the casualty. He was on drips, oxygen, in and out of hospital for about two or three weeks.”

In January, a doctor from Maine did an angiogram on Rennie – the first angiogram ever done in Grenada – and it revealed his heart muscle had been damaged by a virus.

“They said with a pacemaker, if he gets one in there, he would feel much better and be able to return to an almost normal life,” Dale said. “So we started working on that.”

Dr. Finkelstein wrote a letter to the U.S. Consulate in Grenada to help them get visas, and once those were secured he started organizing everything for the trip. The only thing Rennie and Dale had to pay for was their travel to the U.S. – and they took a loan from Dale’s credit union for that.

By that time, with the right combination of medications, his heart had improved to about 50 percent.

“He got about halfway there,” Dale said. “It appeared that he would be in shape to take a nice little surgery to implant the pacemaker. Dr. Finkelstein insured that everything would work smoothly – he dotted every i and crossed every t.

“Had it not been for him, this would not have been possible,” she added.


Those AED’s – automated external defibrillators – that hang on the wall in schools and most other public buildings are similar to what Dr. Ho placed inside Rennie’s chest, although Rennie’s device does more and is much smaller – about the size of a small garage door opener.

Hes Got Rhythm

HE’S GOT RHYTHM – Cardiologist Dr. Trieu Ho points to the bank of monitors as cardiac cath lab personnel get ready to test the pacemaker they’ve just installed in Rennie Matthews’ heart. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

To use the AED, the rescuer places electrode pads on the patient’s chest which sense the heart rhythm and determine if a shock is needed. If it is, the machine calculates the correct voltage and delivers it.

In Rennie’s case, the electrode now resides inside his heart, on a lead connected to the device which is under the skin, just below his collarbone. The pacemaker senses problems with the heart’s rhythm and corrects them. But if the heart stops, the device senses that, too, and becomes a defibrillator, administering a shock.

That’s what happened during the test.

The device was donated by St. Jude’s Hospital, delivered to Decatur by Jeff Cole, who worked hand-in-hand with the physician in operating and testing it during surgery.

It’s a procedure Dr. Ho does about 10 times a month here – but it would not be possible in Grenada.

“To get that care down there, they would have to travel to Barbados or Trinidad,” Dr. Finkelstein said. “These devices can cost $40,000 or $50,000. If they have to pay that out-of-pocket, it’s like seven or eight years’ salary for some of these people.”

Those in the cath lab wear lead suits because x-rays are taken throughout the procedure, to make sure the probe goes to the right spot in the heart. They insert it through a vein just below the left clavicle, and once it’s in place, they implant the device.

The only thing that’s visible is about a one-and-a-half-inch scar.

“The device is about half microchips and half batteries,” Cole said. He said the batteries should last eight to 10 years, and visiting cardiologists in Grenada will be able to test them when they’re down there. If he needs a replacement, he will have to come back to the U.S.

It’s a piece of equipment that will make his life better on a day-to-day basis, and save it if he has another heart attack.

“That heart stoppage we just saw, if it happened at work or on a ballfield, would be fatal 99 times out of 100,” Cole said. “With the device in place, it is survived 99 times out of 100.”


Dr. Finkelstein said he expects the procedure to improve Rennie’s heart function and quality of life. The day after the surgery, it was apparent that was already happening.

“He said he feels like he’s 16 again,” Dale said on Thursday. “Every time when he wakes up he says, ‘I feel like when I just met you.’

“I’m just so glad that Rennie will be able to live again. If we hadn’t been given this opportunity, I don’t think he would be with us much longer. Since he is the main breadwinner for our family his illness had been very hard.”

Rennie and Dale have two children, a son who is 21 and a daughter who is 15. The trip falls during Dale’s Christmas vacation from school, so she doesn’t miss any time at work. School starts again Jan. 6.

“I have prayed for my kids and left them in God’s hands, so I’m not worried,” Dale said. “I get to say hi to them at least once a day.”

She’s delighted Rennie will be able to start 2014 on the road to recovery and extremely impressed with the hospitality they’ve seen in Decatur.

But they’re not huge fans of the weather.

“Everyone in Texas has been very nice – but it is a bit colder than home,” Dale said.

Warm hearts, however, make a big difference.

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

Wise Regional Health System looking for better financial news

As 2013 draws to an end, Wise Regional Health System has several things going on that should improve the hospital’s financial fortunes in 2014.

During a board meeting Monday evening, trustees noted that the system’s consolidated loss for November was $98,000 – despite a $450,000 loss at the Bridgeport campus, which joined WRHS in March.

Chief Financial Officer Jim Eaton told the board the receipt of 1115 waiver funds during November helped offset operational losses that came about as a result of lower patient volumes across all lines of service. But losses at the Bridgeport campus are expected to lessen in December, after inpatient services were suspended there Dec. 1.

The Bridgeport facility will continue to offer emergency services, imaging and outpatient services.

Eaton noted that no full-time staff were laid off as a result of the move, with those Bridgeport employees filling open positions at the Decatur campus.

Board members also heard a report on the system’s 2014 worker’s compensation insurance policy. A new policy for 2014 was approved and although the premium is up 12 percent over 2013, it was noted that WRHS has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of employees since that policy was purchased.

Texas Hospital Insurance Exchange, the successful bidder, will provide not only the policy, but comprehensive audits and evaluations of the hospital’s existing safety measures to help minimize employee injury risks.

Wise Regional CEO Steve Summers gave the board an update on development of Parkway Surgical Hospital, where construction continues. He said the surgical and catheterization laboratory equipment should begin moving in around the end of December, and construction should be complete by the end of January.

The 29,000 square-foot facility is located on North Tarrant Parkway, not far from the intersection of U.S. 81/287 and Interstate 35. The inpatient surgical facility that will include four operating rooms, two procedure rooms and 12 inpatient beds with a laboratory, radiology and preoperative services and an emergency room.

It will provide spine, orthopedics, cardiology, plastic surgery, pain and gastroenterology services and is due to open in March.

In addition, Wise Regional continues to work towards refinancing approximately $55 million of its bonded indebtedness – approximately 75 percent of the facility’s debt. Rating agencies have been invited to consider setting an investment-grade bond rating for the debt, in an effort to lower the hospital system’s interest costs.


The board also approved several new appointments to the medical staff, based on the recommendations of the Medical Executive Committee, and accepted the medical staff’s annual review of various medical service contracts.

New appointments were approved for:

  • Nathaniel Berrios, PA, Allied Health in surgery;
  • Jenna Chapa, NP, Allied Health in the Emergency Department;
  • Michael Fuller, PA-C, Allied Health in surgery;
  • Theodoor Hancke, CRNA, Allied Health in anesthesia;
  • Samantha Mullins, DPM, Active Staff in Podiatry;
  • Syed Rahman, MD, Active Staff in the Emergency Department;
  • John Douglas Ramey, CRNA, Allied Health in anesthesia; and
  • Robin Weerts, CRNA, Allied Health in Anesthesia.

The board tabled action to modify the medical staff bylaws until its January meeting to allow more time for responses from staff members.

Hardware, software purchased

The board approved an upgrade for both the information hardware and software that interfaces with the Soarian electronic clinical record system and the financial and patient admission system.

The $251,704 upgrade, which was budgeted, enables Wise Regional to continue implementation of the electronic health information system. Since the federal government began encouraging health care providers to adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR), usage of existing hard and software systems has increased dramatically.

EHR Systems are a key component in modernizing health care delivery by providing better-coordinated care – which can both improve patients’ health and save money. Wise Regional effectively began use of the Soarian electronic health record system in November, with significant help from the medical staff.

The Board also approved a $259,435 budget item for upgrades to multiple information systems required to meet Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements in 2014. These include modules for the Lab, Pharmacy, Soarian Clinicals and Data Management.


Summers told the board the 163-page initial draft of the Community Health Assessment that was conducted earlier this year has been delivered and is under review by key hospital personnel. Full results should be available soon at soon.

While much of the report is technical and includes census and Department of Health statistics, it will help to identify areas of need within the community, Summers said, that are specific to health care.

Bruce Miller, vice-president of network development for Baylor Quality Alliance, gave the board an overview of the recent merger between Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Healthcare. The newly branded BaylorScott & White Health was born out of growing pressure to demonstrate value and improve outcomes while lowering total health care costs.

Those are issues facing most large health care systems in the nation today.

The board’s next meeting will be Monday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. in the hospital’s administration board room.

Posted in News0 Comments

Inpatient services to be suspended at Bridgeport

Inpatient services to be suspended at Bridgeport

Wise Regional Health System will suspend inpatient services at its Bridgeport campus effective Dec. 1.

That announcement came in a news release Tuesday after the hospital board met Monday evening. The matter was not on the board’s agenda.

Wise Regiounal Bridgeport Campus

Wise Regional Health System Bridgeport campus

According to the news release, the change will affect only the medical/surgical inpatient unit and the ICU. The facility will remain open, focusing on outpatient services including surgery, radiology and emergency services – but patients who need an overnight stay will be transferred to Decatur.

The former North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport opened in August of 2008, but by the following May was in default on $59.1 million in bonded debt. In Nov. 2012, the facility filed for bankruptcy.

With the bankruptcy case in federal court in Fort Worth, Wise Regional was the only bidder and purchased the hospital for $20 million in February of this year. The Decatur-based hospital system assumed ownership on March 27.

Throughout the transfer, the hospital’s ER department remained open, although Wise Regional did shut down much of the facility for remodeling and upgrades before opening it back up to inpatient services and surgery on May 7.

“We had hoped to see enough inpatient volume at the Bridgeport campus to provide a good level of support for the facility,” said Donna Stowers, the Bridgeport hospital’s administrative director. “An Intensive Care Unit was opened at the end of September to further encourage inpatient admissions to the facility. Unfortunately we have not seen the patient volumes that are necessary to make inpatient services a financially viable effort.”

WRHS expected to encounter losses on operations, but CFO Jim Eaton said the Bridgeport campus has continued to lose about $350,000 per month. Inpatient volumes, which were projected in the 8 to 10 patient-per-day range, have instead remained at 1 to 2 patients-per-day.

In presenting the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at Monday’s board meeting, Eaton projected a loss of $2.6 million for the Bridgeport facility in 2014 as currently operated. Potential changes were noted, however, in the executive summary that accompanied the 20-page document.

“Inpatient surgeries and patient admissions have been budgeted for 192 and 864, respectively,” the summary said. “This is a significant growth from current volumes and the opening of the critical care unit is expected to help generate these volumes.”

The report went on to predict that “ancillary services such as respiratory, pharmacy, imaging and laboratory” would also see growth if those patient volumes materialized. “At these budgeted amounts, it is worth operating at the current level of service,” the report stated.

But it sounded a cautionary note.

“In the event that inpatient services are curtailed at Bridgeport in 2014 due to continuing low volume, that patient volume would be picked up at the Decatur campus, but at a lower overall cost,” it said. “In that event, there would not be a negative budget impact.”

The Bridgeport hospital was originally licensed for 35 patient beds. Before the ownership change, it had 200 employees – 130 fulltime. Wise Regional was able to take on almost all of those employees who wished to stay.

In fact, Wise Regional added the equivalent of 243 full-time employees through 2013, primarily due to the acquisition of the Bridgeport campus.

Steve Summers, chief executive for WRHS, said all the equipment at Bridgeport will remain in place and its license to operate as an inpatient facility will be maintained.

“Our goal and hope is that this is a temporary suspension,” Summers said. “We are committed as an organization to providing quality care in Bridgeport and health care services which are needed and will continue to do so.”

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

Budget projections top $195 million for 2014

At its meeting Monday night, the Wise Regional Health System board of directors approved a budget of nearly $196 million for 2014.

With expenses projected at just over $186 million – 25 percent more than in 2013 – a net operating profit of $10.15 million was budgeted for the system, which operates hospitals in Decatur and Bridgeport as well as several ancillary facilities.

Revenue was projected to rise by 20 percent over 2013.

The budget numbers were based on the Bridgeport hospital continuing to operate as a full-service facility – but that situation changed as of Tuesday when it was announced that inpatient services would be suspended there effective Dec. 1. (See story on page 1.)

Bridgeport was projected to generate $14.77 million in adjusted revenue for 2014, with expenses of $17.4 million – a $2.6 million loss. That situation will change after the cutback announced Tuesday.

Also on the horizon in the coming year is the projected opening of the WRHS Parkway Cardiovascular and Surgical Hospital on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. That facility is expected to open its doors in March and account for 858 outpatient surgical procedures in nine months of operation in 2014.

With the start-up expenses incurred prior to opening, Parkway is projected to break even in 2014 but should become profitable in 2015 with a higher percentage of private-pay patients than the Decatur hospital.

More good financial news came in an announcement that Wise Regional Health Foundation will purchase a “Hologic Selenia Dimension” digital mammography unit to replace existing equipment that is seven years old.

The new piece of equipment should increase image quality and provide better service for WRHS patients.

The machine will cost $245,000. The board expressed its appreciation of the Foundation board for its efforts to help with the cost of necessary equipment for the hospital and community.


Directors also were told that the hospital this month fully implemented its electronic medical record system. Physicians are now using the electronic system to manage their patients’ care within the hospital.

With the first round of the hospital’s construction bonds callable in 2014, discussions are underway about refinancing them to achieve an interest savings.

CEO Steve Summers told the board the refinancing discussion is ongoing and said they would be asked to participate in those meetings in January. The goal is to attain an investment-grade rating on existing bonds.

The board voted to retain the existing officer positions for next year, with Andrew Sanford as president, Jay Bearden as vice president and Debbie Waggoner as secretary.

They also approved several new appointments to the medical staff, following the recommendations of Wise Regional’s Medical Executive Committee.

New appointments included:

  • Clay H. Brown, MD, (consulting) anesthesia;
  • Ricky Childers, DPM, (active) podiatry;
  • Stuart Connell, MD, (active) pain management;
  • Michelle Doyle-Griffith, CRNA (allied) anesthesia;
  • Patrick Evans, CRNA (allied) anesthesia;
  • Meagan Johnson, PA, (allied) surgery;
  • Khuram Khan, DO (consulting) anesthesia;
  • Sharon McLemore, NP (allied) family medicine;
  • Natalia Tan, PA-C (allied) surgery.

Summers provided an administrative report that included updates on the hospital’s continuing support of the Wise County Youth Fair Champions Club and a review of an article that discusses the national health care scene.

He also gave the board an overview from board meetings of both the Wise Regional Health Foundation and Wise Clinical Care Associates.

The board also:

  • delegated the human resources committee the authority to establish an Executive Compensation Plan
  • in consideration of the upcoming holiday, moved its December meeting date to Dec. 16

The board approved the following on the consent agenda:

  • A management services and equipment lease agreement with MediVest Denton LP, a Texas limited partnership (“MVP”) for MRI imaging services in Denton.
  • The sale of CT currently located at WRHS freestanding imaging center in Bridgeport for $65,000.

The next meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in the administration board room at 609 Medical Center Drive in Decatur.

Posted in News0 Comments

Staff jumps into action during drill

Staff jumps into action during drill

How do you respond to an emergency during an already life-threatening situation?

Thursday afternoon, on the third floor of Wise Regional Health System (WRHS) in Decatur, doctors and nurses were operating on a patient in a sterile operating room. An employee noticed an autoclave sparking in what appeared to be a small electrical fire.

Climbing to the Top

CLIMBING TO THE TOP – Decatur firefighter Alex Brown climbs the stairs to the third floor at Wise Regional Health System during a drill Thursday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Moments later a sudden explosion rocked the third floor, blasting a huge hole in the operating room, seriously injuring doctors, nurses and even the patient who was undergoing surgery.

From the third floor window, Decatur Fire Hall could be seen opening its bay doors on a faraway hill. Firefighters and other first responders would arrive in minutes, but every second is crucial, and hospital staff has to know how to take care of its patients and its employees immediately.

PRACTICING PROCEDURE – Staff at Wise Regional Health System participated in a drill Thursday that simulated a fire in the operating room. Pictured (from left) are Nancy Neff, RN; Whitney Wiggins, RN; Cheryl Maietta, RN; Charlene Berg, CRNA; Kellie Romines, RN; Derek Wilson, RN; Brooke Arrington, RN; Juanita Schrader, RN; and Aaron Cortez, who acted as a patient. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We do these types of drills so we are already prepared and trained in case something like this does happen,” said Shannon Puphal, WRHS spokesperson. “We do this to check our processes.”

The staff went to great lengths to make the mock explosion as realistic as possible. The faces and arms of nurses and doctors in the operating room were marred with makeup resembling horrid burns. Like clockwork, additional staff rushed in. A table equipped with everything needed to keep the surgical patient alive is rolled in. Other staff quickly takes stock of those injured and dying. Within 20 minutes, all seven injured parties have been transported to the unaffected end of the hospital and have been seen by a doctor.

“You have to do these to test your resources and response,” said Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis, who was on hand observing tactics and responses.

There are seven operating rooms at the hospital, not to mention many other patients and staff scattered throughout the complex. Disasters can and do strike medical facilities.

The WRHS Fit-n-Wise complex in Decatur was devastated by a tornado in October of 2001.

Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard has responded to three hospital fires during his career. He looked on as a team of Decatur firefighters stormed up a flight of stairs to respond to the mock explosion.

“The biggest difference between these scenarios and if a structure fire really happened is the amount of chaos,” Beard said. “But these help identify any types of failing there may be. Not just with the fire department, but with the hospital staff as well, from the top down.”

Puphal said the hospital staff did identify a couple of areas to help improve response to a real disaster. The hospital plans to work with Decatur Fire Department to identify stairwells by numbers rather than by direction such as east, west, etc.

Staff also discovered that certain patient evacuation sleds are easier to maneuver down stairwells than others, prompting the hospital to increase the number of those sleds on upper floors.

“Overall, the department directors felt the drill went well,” Puphal said. “Protocols were followed, and staff and were knowledgeable on hospital policies and procedures.”

A more comprehensive drill involving more county agencies is likely planned for the future.

Posted in Features, News0 Comments


Register| Forgot Password?