The opening of the FitzPatrick Cancer Center in 1990 was part of a multifaceted plan by CVPH Medical Center to place a firm foothold in the future. In addition to the comprehensive cancer center, CVPH requested and received New York State approval for seven projects each focused on meeting the community’s needs with an emphasis on convenience, access and quality. These Centers of Excellence included comprehensive cardiac diagnostic services including catheterization, an alcohol detoxification unit, an inpatient rehabilitation unit, a computerized lab system, and enhanced diagnostic services that included a CT scanner and hospital based magnetic resonance imaging unit (MRI).
These services and the teams that brought them to life created a strong foundation for the organization to not only weather the turbulence of the health care landscape but thrive because of it.
“I believe the success of these programs helped us become who and what we are today,” explained Alice Hyde Medical Center and CVPH President Michelle LeBeau. “We’ve grown in a very deliberate manner with an eye on quality and service. The great work that folks did to establish programs like the cancer center, cardiology services and rehabilitation set the stage for our success. They set a high standard that continues today.”
Technology, consumer demand and a shift in the role hospitals played in health care were drivers in the many changes in health care during the late 1980s and 90s. Advancements in health care technology began to change the way medicine was practiced. Hospitals across the country began developing services and programs that offered convenience for their patients as well as quality care. Focusing on wellness and prevention was also part of the shift. CVPH’s response was to seize upon those changes and create opportunities for growth. Strategic planning placed an emphasis on outpatient services and anticipated fewer hospital admissions.
By the end of millennium, the hospital had moved several key services to offsite locations. The Kevin J. Carroll Ambulatory Surgery Center, the H.K. Freedman Renal Center, the Women’s Imaging Center and Diagnostic Center opened in a former strip mall near the Hannaford Supermarket.
The Emergency Department expanded twice in 30 years (1997 and 2011), each time designed to adapt to growing demand and the reliance on technology. In 1987, there were 34,000 ED visits, in 2012 51,000 and today 44,203. In 2001, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit opened offering acute psychiatric care to the pediatric population in space that was once a medical/surgical unit. Rehabilitation Services established satellite clinics at the Wellness & Fitness Center at New York Road (2007), on Tom Miller Road (2009) and at deGrandpre Way, offering patients easier access to the CVPH Rehab services.
These changes created a ripple effect throughout the entire organization. For example, building a first-class cardiac care service line required more than building a cardiac catheterization lab. It meant supporting and enhancing existing services, building a new intensive care unit (2003), building a new surgical wing (2008), enhancing diagnostic capabilities (2007), expanding the blood bank and hiring even more staff.
“In bringing a higher level of cardiac care to the North Country we’ve improved so many lives,” LeBeau said. “Building on an already strong program, CVPH was able to expand the scope of services so people in this region no longer had to travel for care. Since that time, our Cardiology Services team has earned accolades from accrediting agencies and organizations like Healthgrades. But just as important, they receive rave reviews from our patients. Today, working with our University of Vermont Health Network partners, we are able to provide the region with a full spectrum of the highest quality cardiac care.”
Last year, the outpatient cardiology team ranked as one of the best in the country according to Press Ganey, a leading provider of patient experience measurement analytics and strategic advisory solutions for health care organizations across the continuum of care. Press Ganey surveys submitted by patients indicate that the CVPH service, which includes outpatient non-invasive, invasive and cardiac rehabilitation, scored better than 99% of outpatient facilities across the country. The CVPH team maintained that ranking for 12 consecutive months, from October 2017 to September 2018. Partnering with Alice Hyde Medical Center and Elizabethtown Community Hospital, Plattsburgh cardiologists conduct clinics in Malone and Elizabethtown negating the need for residents to travel.
Growing in parallel with the hospital has been The Foundation of CVPH, established in 1989. Many of the large expansion projects have been funded in part by campaigns conducted by the Foundation. In addition, Foundation programs have grown to include scholarships for health care workers to expand their skillsets, meet patient needs in and out of the hospital and partner with local organizations to improve the overall health and wellness of the community. “Our community supports this organization in tremendous ways. We’ve been able to expand the services we provide because of it,” explained Associate Vice President of Philanthropy Kerry Haley.
The churn of health care continues and according to LeBeau, some of the challenges faced by her predecessors remain today. “Recruitment, especially physicians, and looking for ways to improve quality and access while managing the cost of care continue to be priorities for us, just like they were 30 years ago. But as before, we have an exceptional team that is committed to doing its best for our community. I believe together we can accomplish anything.”