For months, local residents watched as the construction of Middle Tennessee Medical Center progressed along a parkway of the same name. Daily commutes became exciting, as onlookers witnessed pieces of the new hospital being assembled like an oversized puzzle. Gradually, it transformed into a magnificent structure of healing and caregiving that opened exactly one year today.
In just 12 months, MTMC has broken records, added specialists and progressed towards its aspiration of becoming a regional medical center.
"I wouldn't say that we have reached that goal (yet); our strategic plan is to do that, and we are making progress," MTMC president and CEO Gordon B. Ferguson confirmed.
"Our volume of patients in different areas is up over our prior year period. When you look at our patient discharges, our emergency room visits, our births and our surgery procedures, all of them are up from where we were at the old facility."
The hospital witnessed a 6.3 percent increase in emergency room visits. Additionally, doctors have delivered 2,543 babies as of last week, according to hospital spokeswoman Kristi Gooden. In fact, MTMC broke its own record of births, she explained. In the original hospital, the most babies delivered in one month topped out at 227, but doctors broke that record in June with 230 deliveries and then again in July with 248 births.
"We were just shy of that record in August with 244 births," Gooden said.
From where, exactly, are these patients coming?
"We're still seeing a vast majority of patients coming from Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, but preliminary market share information shows that we are attracting more patients from the secondary service area," Ferguson continued, calling them "collar counties," or neighboring counties.
This may be, in part, because of a new transfer system implemented by the hospital to better facilitate the transfer of patients from other emergency rooms and nearby doctors' offices to MTMC.
"They simply have to call one number, and that helps reduce significant time and other phone calls needed to get patients transferred into MTMC," Ferguson said. "We started it in the last couple of months, but from what we're seeing, it is working well for physicians in outlying areas, as well as other emergency departments."
In addition to births and emergency room visits, patients are also seeking MTMC for its specialty services. The hospital added about 40 new physicians from a varying array of specialties, including plastic surgery, cardiology rheumatology and electrophysiology.
"Also, our palliative care program, which started about a year ago, is really growing rapidly," Ferguson continued.
Palliative care is an end-of-life care that ensures patients are kept comfortable and have correct emotional and spiritual support throughout their last days.
"We're also seeing rapid growth with the sleep center that's located within the DePaul building," he said. "It started very shortly after we opened, and we are exceeding the projections for that sleep program."
Ferguson explained how these programs benefit local and surrounding communities?
"It provides greater access to needed physicians, whether in primary care or specialty care," he said.
"It does help us to have physicians referring patients at the hospital and having procedures at the hospital, but more importantly, it bring specialty health care to this community, where patients can have their health care needs addressed locally."
He pointed to the importance of having cardiologists available 24 hours a day, which goes well with another new service MTMC is offering its heart patients.
Patients coming into the emergency room with chest pains are now moved to an adjacent unit for streamlined testing. If results come back negative, those patients will have a shorter stay.
"It is a rapid process for doing initial testing," Ferguson said. "It basically centralizes what we've had all along, and we're able to draw from a broader pool of professionals that are serving our network."
That space was previously the intake center, and MTMC professionals still perform some of that work there, but a certain number of beds have been dedicated for the chest pain center.
Equally important to initial care is chronic, or follow-up, care.
"Tennessee is getting sicker and sicker, what with obesity and the heart conditions that come with that," Ferguson explained. "We make it so that you don't have to travel to Nashville for physician and follow-up appointments."
He also pointed to the aging population, many of whom have either chronic or acute illnesses. With its specialty doctors and available services, MTMC is able to provide close-to-home care for these residents, as well.
MTMC has more in store for its facilities
Construction of the Seton Building is currently underway and is expected to be complete in the next couple of months. It will house the hospital's state of the art Comprehensive Cancer Center, Center for Breast Health, Saint Thomas Heart at MTMC, the Wellness Center, Wound Care Center, Tennessee Oncology and Bariatric Center. Some of these are relocating from the Bell Street office on MTMC's original campus.
Office openings will be staged, and Ferguson anticipates the Cancer Center to be the last to open in early 2012.
"We are going to really turn our attention and continue to focus on what we're calling patient-centered care, where we're just making sure we're taking care of all of the needs of out patients and their family members," Ferguson said.
"We continue to get a lot of great feedback regarding the physical accommodations of the new hospital. We just hear a lot about the size of the room and natural light that comes in – all of which was done as part of the design of the new facility."