Mercy has increased its presence in the Four Rivers area by adding services, facilities and recruiting physicians.
The recent integration with Patients First, a local doctors group, this past July helped to boost its numbers in terms of more doctors and staff, services and offices.
And, more importantly, the integration has provided residents with even greater access to cohesive medical care, said Terri McLain, Mercy Hospital Washington president.
McLain and Dr. David Chalk, president of Mercy Clinic Four Rivers, said a recent study, “The Economic Impact of Mercy on the Four Rivers Area,” conducted by the University of Missouri-St. Louis, shows that Mercy’s service endeavors, capital investments and employment opportunities provide a significant and permanent boost to the local economy, in addition to providing quality health care.
By the Numbers
The economic analysis of Mercy’s data shows the impact in 2012-13 to be:
• $212 million in spending in the Four Rivers area by Mercy’s facilities and its suppliers.
• 1,285 co-workers and $78 million in payroll.
• $2.3 million in annual local and state taxes.
The report further states that between 2013 and 2022, Mercy Four Rivers will have a projected $5.5 billion economic impact on Missouri.
“Yes that’s ‘billion’ and it’s eye-opening even to me when I see that number,” said McLain.
The purpose of the study was to measure the overall economic impact of the Four Rivers division of Mercy on Washington and surrounding communities. Mercy’s 187-bed hospital and its two largest medical offices are located in Washington.
Mercy also has medical offices in many other towns within its service area which takes in all or part of Franklin, Warren, Crawford, Gasconade, St. Charles and St. Louis counties.
Mercy in Four Rivers has more than 1,140 full-time staff members and 145 physicians and advanced practitioners.
Regardless of their ability to pay, Mercy also provides health care to the underserved, uninsured and the poor, McLain pointed out.
This past year, 3,144 charity patients were served and over $36 million provided in unpaid cost to financial indigent persons without insurance.
The McAuley Clinic in Washington was created to serve individuals and families in need in the Four Rivers area. The clinic receives about 28,000 patient visits annually. It is funded by corporate and private donations.
McLain said Mercy’s growth in the area has resulted in more providers in the areas of primary care; dermatology; ear, nose and throat; pain management; and urology.
Specialty care also has expanded, she said, from the cancer center, to neurology and sleep medicine, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, the Bariatric Center, and the list goes on.
“We’ve been the best kept secret with some of our specialty care, such as our stroke care, prenatal care and when minutes matter, our heart care,” she said. “We have many amazing stories with great outcomes.”
McLain said it can sometimes be hard to change a person’s migratory patterns for health care, but as more people become aware of what Mercy can offer, it is happening.
“One patient at a time, one specialist at a time,” added Dr. Chalk.
McLain said Mercy is committed to providing high-quality health care now and in the future which is evident by its expanded services, such as a second cath lab, telemedicine services, recruitment of new physicians and renovation of the emergency department, ICU, and labor and delivery.
A new hospital is in the planning stages, she said, but an exact time line has not been determined.
The initial thinking is to build the new hospital in the same spot or campus as the existing hospital so recently updated and renovated areas, such as emergency department, could still be utilized.
Dr. Chalk said the need is there for a new facility, noting some areas in the hospital are stressed daily due to a lack of space and fall short of the amenities of what people expect in 2013.
As the planning continues, McLain said Mercy is not content to sit idle and instead is continuing to invest in current facilities, equipment and supplies.
Originally, Mercy officials said construction of a new hospital would get started before the end of this decade, but McLain said it will be much sooner than that.
“We hope to push it faster,” she said.
Dr. Chalk said Mercy will continue to expand its footprint with additional access points for specialty care, providing more services in areas like Sullivan, Hermann and Eureka.
“It’s about providing the right care, at the right place, at the right time,” he said. “As technology gets more sophisticated, we’ll be able to bring services to different communities when it makes sense.”
Both McLain and Dr. Chalk said the integration of Patients First with Mercy has gone very smoothly.
“It’s been very positive by and large, both for the patients and the service providers,” Dr. Chalk told The Missourian.
“I think it’s been pretty seamless and much appreciated,” he said. “I think everyone is excited to see what the unified potential is for the future.”
Dr. Chalk acknowledged there have been some challenges with the many different providers, but also a lot of opportunities.
“There are many benefits of coming together,” he said.
McLain agreed, saying along with the physical integration, there also comes a cultural integration.
“We are taking the very best from both and crafting a new culture,” she said. “Issues will always bubble up, but in all honesty, I’ve been amazed at how well it is working.”
McLain said working with Dr. Chalk has been wonderful from the very start.
“People in the community have been very positive about the integration and seem to be very excited,” she added. “As we go around and talk to the Lions, Chamber and other service groups about our plans, there is a lot of interest and people are very upbeat.”
Dr. Chalk and McLain said the integration has resulted in added value to the community at large and added value to fulfilling the health care needs in this area.
Some people thought the integration would result in downsizing and reductions in staff, they said, but that has not really happened. While there have been some consolidations, employees often have been able to move to another department. Mercy also currently has about 60 open positions, 31 of those for RNs.
The addition of the Patients First campus, now known as Mercy South, also has provided new opportunities, McLain said, and there is still room at that campus to add providers or groups.
“We are very excited about Mercy’s future in the Four Rivers area,” she said.