Alive and Well: Despite layoffs, a Southern Colorado hospital battles perception it’s closing
A robot-like concentration on five clinical areas, a recent expansion to its Flight For Life Colorado fleet, a new urgent care facility in Pueblo West, and even an ongoing plan to improve parking at its main Pueblo facility is a sign that St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is thriving after its reorganization.
That didn’t seem to be the case about six months ago when, back in April, 275 positions were eliminated at the hospital and other employees left their jobs voluntarily – and St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso canvassed the local media trying to quell rumors that the hospital was closing.
“Our biggest challenge in the past few months has been the misinformation in Pueblo and the surrounding communities,” Cafasso said. “The biggest thing we hear is that people think the hospital is closed or that our ER is closed. … Our ER continues to offer 24-hour emergency room services. Wait times average less than 30 minutes in our ER and 88 percent of the patients treated in the St. Mary-Corwin ER do not need to be admitted to the hospital or transferred. These patients are treated, released and go home with their families, usually within a couple of hours of arriving.”
As for the employees who lost their jobs, Cafasso boasts that by mid-June nearly 90 percent of the 275 workers who had their jobs eliminated found new jobs elsewhere. “We hosted numerous job fairs and many of our associates found roles at other Centura facilities,” the CEO adds.
But even Cafasso admits it is “no secret” that times were tough at the hospital earlier this year. “Now, six months later, some of those associates who chose to leave (on their own terms, not part of the layoffs) are returning to St. Mary-Corwin,” he said. “To be clear, we are not filling the positions that were eliminated but instead, as we grow orthopedics and oncology services and align our new nursing unit, new positions have been created and those positions need to be filled. It is heartwarming to see people come back to work at St. Mary-Corwin. We feel we are a stronger workforce having gone through the challenging times, and are excited for what the future holds for us here at St. Mary-Corwin.”
Yet the rumors of St. Mary-Corwin’s demise persist. And St. Mary Corwin’s staff confronted those rumors by hosting a booth on Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair at which they passed out fresh fruit as a means of engaging the community. “That’s just one example of how we have been talking to people – one-on-one – answering questions and dispelling rumors. St. Mary-Corwin has been part of the Pueblo community for 135 years. Yes, we may look a little bit different than we did a year ago, but we are committed to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.”
Pulp asked Cafasso to give as many details as he could about the hospital’s future plans.
During the transition since the layoffs, he said the hospital has zoomed in on five areas of concentration – refocusing on these areas, which he believes are St. Mary-Corwin’s “clinical strength.” The first is orthopedics, which includes joint replacement procedures and sports medicine. The hospital has an inpatient unit dedicated to joint replacement – and as Cafasso put it, the dedicated unit “expands patients’ access to leading-edge techniques and the most advanced technology.”
The second area of clinical specialization is cancer and breast care. The hospital’s Dorcy Center provides screening, diagnosis, and treatment with surgery, radiation therapy, radiation and medical oncology, chemotherapy, and an ambulatory infusion center. And the St. Mary-Corwin Breast Center of Excellence provides mammography screening, breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in partnership with the Dorcy Cancer Center.
Emergency and trauma services make up the third area of focus at St. Mary-Corwin. The facility provides 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesthesia coverage. Flight For Life Colorado provides life-saving services across Southern Colorado and operates from St. Mary-Corwin with ground and air transport.
The hospital’s third area of concentration is emergency and trauma services. They include 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesthesia coverage. Also, Flight For Life Colorado provides life-saving services across Southern Colorado and operates from St. Mary-Corwin with ground and air transport to Level I and Level II trauma centers, which handle more severe cases.
Surgical services are the hospital’s fourth area of concentration. They include general surgery, robotic-assisted surgery, orthopedics, cancer and gastroenterology. And the unit provides full-time anesthesia coverage, as well as inpatient and outpatient procedures.
Particularly noteworthy is the development of the hospital’s robotic-assisted surgery. Dr. Gary Lane performed his 500th DaVinci robotic-assisted surgery at St. Mary-Corwin in mid-September. Lane was the first general surgeon to offer DaVinci robotic-assisted surgery in Pueblo. He uses the robot for procedures such as single-site and multi-port gallbladder removal, inguinal and ventral hernia repair, hiatal hernia repair, and colon surgery. According to Cafasso, the hospital recently received an “A” rating in patient safety from the Leapfrog Group. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety and helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.
The last area of concentration at St. Mary-Corwin is diagnostic imaging. The department provides X-ray/radiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computerized Tomography (CT), 3D mammography, nuclear medicine, and interventional radiology.
Cafasso also mentioned respiratory therapy and non-invasive cardiology as others areas designed to support the five areas stated before.
With only six months from the layoffs it’s too early to tell if the focused direction will have the impact on St. Mary-Corwin.
Cafasso was asked if there were any plans to expand either the hospital’s facilities and/or the services offered.
He emphasized two new enhancements at St. Mary-Corwin. The new urgent care center in Pueblo West – called the Centura Health Urgent Care Pueblo West – offers that community more options for care, expanded access and hours, and increased services when they are needed. “We are also working diligently to increase access to urgent care in the [Pueblo West] community,” the CEO said.
And Cafasso said that despite rumors that the Pueblo facility was losing its trauma services, Flight For Life Colorado continues to operate out of St. Mary-Corwin. In fact, the unavailing of Terra 41, the newest ground transport ambulance to the Flight For Life Colorado fleet based at the hospital, and its crew were announced on Sept. 14. “Lifeguard 4 provides air transport, and now Terra 41 provides inter-facility ground transport for St. Mary-Corwin patients who do need to be transferred to another facility for care,” Cafasso said.
One of the general concerns with St. Mary Corwin has been its parking situations. Cafasso has said that with the changes to the campus they are looking at how best to address parking situation, “While there is plenty of parking on our campus, most of our visitors tend to park on one end, closer to the services which probably led to that perception of a parking problem. To that point, we are in the early stages of our master facilities planning process. We are looking at all possibilities to make the best use of our campus.”
Cafasso did admit that the under the new hospital’s “new operational model” that they are using a smaller percentage of the building.
In addition to the hospital’s new focus and facility improvements, Cafasso is proud of the fact that three orthopedic surgeons at the hospital are Pueblo natives – Drs. Alex Romero, Shawn Nakamura, and Michael Van Manen.
“[They] went off to medical school and training, and then returned to Pueblo to serve their community,” the CEO said. “They are committed to taking care [of] their friends and neighbors here in Pueblo, and we are so thankful to have them as part of the St. Mary-Corwin team.”
To sum up the hospital’s current situation, Cafasso said, “With the transition behind us, we are focused on the future, and we are embracing with great excitement the next chapter of quality care at St. Mary-Corwin. We are focused on providing quality care in orthopedics and cancer care, along with 24/7 emergency services, world-class diagnostic imaging, and surgical services.”