Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tips to skip food poisoning this holiday season

The holiday season, a time for family, friends and festivity, is here. But there’s something not so cheery that can come along with it: Foodborne illness, which makes a spike during the winter months and especially around the holidays. Thankfully, there are things people can do to keep the illness-causing organisms from ruining the most wonderful time of the year – and the first way is especially close at hand.

“Hand hygiene is the number-one thing that we want to see and remind people to do,” says Dana Edwards, an infection prevention coordinator at CoxHealth. She notes that it’s especially important because not all germs are killed with alcohol sanitizers. “Norovirus – known as the “cruise-ship bug” – is very difficult to kill with alcohol. You want to make sure that you’re mechanically washing with friction, making a lot of bubbles and rinsing them away down the sink. Theoretically that’s removing the organisms from your hands and decreasing the likelihood of getting infected.”

But that’s not all people can do to keep from getting sick. Below, find some more tips from Edwards on how to keep this season a happy – and healthy – one.  

  1. Keep raw foods away from cooked ones. It’s easy for bacteria to unintentionally get from one food to another. For example, before using a fork to sprinkle onions on the green bean casserole, ensure it didn’t touch the raw turkey.
  2. Be sure to clean surfaces often. According to Edwards, this is more than simply wiping counters down with a wet paper towel. “Preferably clean it first with soap and water, and follow it up with bleach,” she says, noting that you can’t simply start with a an alcohol wipe, either. “We can’t disinfect dirt, so we have to make sure that the counter is clean.” She also notes that when disinfecting, be sure to find wipes that have a bleach base, since some versions use other cleaners that don’t kill organisms the same as bleach does.
  3. Promptly refrigerate and freeze foods. Ideally, this is within two hours of purchasing or preparing. Another tip: Contrary to longtime tradition, don’t defrost that turkey (or other frozen foods) on the kitchen counter. “Really, the safer way to do it is placing it in the refrigerator,” says Edwards. “That keeps things at a low enough temp that organisms can’t grow as easily.”
  4. Respect use-by dates. Yes, it might be tempting to go ahead and use that slightly outdated jar of mayonnaise, but is food poisoning really something you want to give your family as an early Christmas gift? “It’s a cliché, but it’s really important to respect those dates,” says Edwards. “After extended periods of time, organisms can begin to grow and cause harm if ingested.”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to spread the illness-causing organisms, which can cause issues within a very short period of time. “A lot of times the outbreak has happened before people realize it,” says Edwards, who also notes that the most common symptoms of foodborne illness are diarrhea, cramping, nausea and vomiting. There are several risk groups – including children, pregnant women and the elderly – who should take those conditions especially seriously.

“But as with any illness, if symptoms persist it is a good idea to call your provider,” reminds Edwards.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cox Heart Center Branson expands to greater serve patients

In an effort to greater serve patients, Cox Heart Center Branson (CHCB) has expanded – and has a new look! Now, there’s a total of 18 exam rooms in the center, which has a beautifully remodeled lobby. The public is invited to see these improvements – and meet the cardiologists – at an open house on Friday, Nov. 18 from 2 – 4 p.m.  

“These improvements mean that the center can offer more support to the community than ever before,” says Sherry Schutz, clinic manager at CHCB. “We want to offer patients the best care possible, and these improvements help accomplish that mission.”

In addition to the center’s new look and increased space, the number of cardiologists at the center has also gone up. Dr. Robbie Mangalasseril and Dr. David Lemons have recently come to CHCB, and bring a wealth of knowledge and a desire to help local patients. Both physicians specialize in treatment of cardiology conditions, including valvular heart disease, adult congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, as well as advanced cardiac imaging and heart failure.

CHCB provides a variety of cardiovascular services including the evaluation and treatment of a variety of cardiovascular conditions, an anticoagulation clinic, a pacemaker/ICD clinic, as well as ultrasounds, cardiac stress testing, and cardiac event monitoring.

The center is located at 1150 Hwy 248, Suite 200, Branson. For more information or to make an appointment at the center, please call 417-336-4112.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Cox Learning Center Branson to hold open house

As a growing and thriving community, the Tri Lakes Area needs proven child care to ensure that all community needs are met. With that in mind, Cox Medical Center Branson is excited to offer the Cox Learning Center Branson as a new option to the community. Families are invited to come see the beautiful new center, located at 1192 Bird Road, Branson, on Monday, Nov. 21 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

“It’s a great benefit for our employees, who will be able to go to work and give the best possible care to our patients because they know their children are receiving great care as well,” says Simon Wajnblom, vice president of Performance Management at Cox Medical Center Branson. “However, we also want to extend this great service to our community. Having the availability of a credentialed learning center, with a tested and proven curriculum, aides in the development of the children while attracting and retaining an engaged labor force.”

The learning center, which is currently taking names on its waiting list, will accept children six weeks old up to 12 years of age. It will employ approximately 15 full-time employees and another 10 part-time employees when at capacity. The center will use nationally approved Creative Curriculum by Teaching Strategies, which is developmentally and age-appropriate and promotes child-initiated learning.

“As children grow and learn, we’ll make every effort to promote self-esteem and independence in the child and help the child grow emotionally, physically, intellectually and socially,” says Karrie Ridder, CoxHealth learning centers system director of more than 30 years. “The goal is to make learning fun and to spur creativity. Classrooms will be organized into learning centers, giving children a variety of activities to choose from each day.”

The center will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Friday. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon snacks will be served daily. Formula, diapers and wipes will also be included at no additional cost for children in the applicable age categories.

To learn more or to place your child on the waiting list, call 417-269-6775. For more information about employment at the learning center, please visit and visit the Career Center.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mom leads fundraiser to buy books for NICU babies

Before becoming a mom, April Gensler didn’t know how much of an impact books would have on her life. But when her daughter, Amelia, was born at only 24 weeks old, reading books to her was the only way she could connect with her baby. “When I came back to the NICU, the nurse presented me with a book with my daughter's footprints inside,” says April. “She told me I could read softly to her.”

Amelia’s book was presented as part of the Books for Babies program, which has been operated from CoxHealth’s NICU for more than 20 years. Each baby is presented with a book, stamped with the baby’s footprints, and the baby’s parents are encouraged to read it to their child. Reading allows bonding to occur – because for some parents like April, even touching their baby isn’t an option.

“I wasn't even allowed to caress her because it could overstimulate,” says April, since Amelia’s skin wasn’t fully developed. “Reading was all I had. The only thing I could do.”  

So that’s what she did. With no other children at home, April would spend hours upon hours at the NICU, reading to Amelia from the NICU’s library. “She got stronger and stronger, but it was three months before I could hold my baby girl against my chest,” recalls April. “By that point though, reading was our ‘thing’ and it continued."

Tragically, Amelia was just born too early: On Feb. 28, 2011, she passed away 155 days after her birth. But today, her mother is raising money to support the program that brought so many good memories to her time with Amelia. And although she’d love to see the funds to purchase as many books as possible, her goal is to get at least 155 – one for each day of her daughter’s life. “I just want to honor her life,” says April. “She fought every day to live. She was so strong. I want to carry that on. I want to give back to the programs that gave so much to us.”

April is asking the community to help: Monetary donations may be made until Nov. 20 via You Caring, a crowdsourcing site, which will allow books to be purchased at wholesale prices and given to babies in the NICU.

“I think it is the most beneficial program for a parent/baby in the NICU because you aren't able to care for your child like everyone else does,” says April. “All you have is your voice to give them, but so many people, including me, have a hard time finding the words especially considering the extremely emotional and stressful setting. But books gave us words when we had none.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

CoxHealth invites community to participate in healthy food drive

Increasing numbers of people across the Ozarks are relying on food pantries to meet their daily needs. However, when it comes to people with health-restricted diets, sometimes there are few options for food. That’s why CoxHealth’s employees are working to pack local pantries with foods that are low in sugar, salt and fat – and the community is invited to take part! 

“We know that obesity, heart disease and diabetes are leading health issues in our community,” says Glenda Miller, CoxHealth collaborative care coordinator and food drive organizer. “By donating healthy foods to our local pantries, we are helping not only provide much needed food for our friends and neighbors, but also support those who wish to eat a heart-healthy diet.”

Springfield’s donations will benefit Crosslines, a local food pantry that serves an average of 3,600 Ozarkers every month. “As a client-choice food pantry, it is important to Crosslines to provide a selection of healthy, nutritious food for families and seniors,” says Crosslines director Tom Faulkner. “Through CoxHealth’s healthy food drive, Crosslines will be able to help meet a special need for those with dietary health conditions, especially those that may have high blood pressure, diabetes, or even chronic heart disease issues.”

The food drive begins on Nov. 2, which coincides with National Eating Healthy Day, and runs through Nov. 18. In Springfield, donation bins will be placed at Cox South (near the north entrance, West Pavilion entrance and West Tower entrance), Meyer Fitness Center (inside the front entrance), Meyer Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Hospital (near the cafeteria), CoxHealth Surgery Center (inside the south entrance) and Cox North (outpatient entrance and near the FMCC entrance).

Some suggested items include no-sugar-added applesauce, 100-percent-fruit cups, low-sodium or “no salt added” canned vegetables, reduced sodium spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, brown rice, whole wheat noodles, canned chicken and dried beans.

Food donated in Springfield will be provided to Crosslines, Branson’s food donations will be sent to pantries operated by Christian Action Ministries, and Monett’s goes to Monett Community Kitchen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Keep trick-or-treating safe this Halloween

Halloween will soon be here, which offers a great opportunity to have fun – as long as everyone stays safe. One option is to attend CoxHealth’s free Trunk or Treat on Oct. 31, which will be held at the West Pavilion at Cox South. Departments will distribute candy from kid-friendly booths from 5 – 8 p.m.

However, for those trick-or-treating door-to-door this year, check out a few tips from CoxHealth’s Public Safety department: 

  • Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
  • If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, establish a route with your child and don’t allow your child to go door-to-door in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
  • Be sure to walk on the sidewalks and driveways. When crossing a street, make sure you are crossing at the corner, or in a crosswalk. Remind your child to look carefully for traffic before crossing.
  • If possible, carry a cellphone. Teach them how to call home or dial 911 if they need to.
  • Make sure your child carries a flashlight. Attach a glow stick, small battery operated light or reflective tape on their costume. This will help keep them visible.
  • Remind your child of the dangers of getting into a stranger’s car. If someone stops them and asks them for help or offers them candy to get in their car, tell them to scream as loud as they can and run.
  • To help keep kids from being tempted to dig into their candy before they get home, feed them a meal or snack beforehand.
  • If your child has a food allergy, be sure to carry their emergency medicines with you, or display an allergy medical bracelet.
  • Examine all treats before they eat them. Only allow them to eat factory-wrapped treats, avoiding homemade treats from strangers.
  • Children should wear well-fitting masks, costumes and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips and falls. Better yet: Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cox South room refresh builds in-house pride

Our ‘refresh construction’ team brings innovative problem-solving to the task of making original Cox South rooms new again.

Take a look inside one of the renovated rooms on 500 West or 200 West at Cox South and you might easily mistake it for one of the rooms in the newly built West Tower.

Engineering’s “refresh construction” teams are currently working their way through the original hospital, giving the rooms a new look and new functionality that puts the original tower on the same level as the new construction. But the teams working on the refresh are building more than new rooms: They’re building pride and dedication that shows through in every step of the work.

Rather than completing the renovation through contractors, CoxHealth leaders decided early on to bring the work in-house. Supervisor Tony Hein says that decision has been a major win for Engineering, as teams put their expertise to work making an investment in CoxHealth’s future.

“This is not just a job, people take pride and ownership of what they’re doing for the hospital,” Hein says. “Everyone took this job because they wanted to make a difference and everyone works good together.”

The 10 members of the refresh construction team have all had input into the design of the rooms. They’ve brought their individual skill sets to the task of finding innovative solutions that bring the latest features to the renovated space.

For an obvious example of the team’s problem-solving prowess, look no further than the wood headwalls behind the bed in each patient room. Since the original tower’s rooms are a different size than those in the West Tower, the headwalls were going to have to be custom made.

Designing them to work around the placement of medical gasses in the original tower’s walls presented another challenge, as well as a variety of additional costs.

The team devised a solution: Purchase the raw materials and build the walls themselves. They gave it a try with formaldehyde-free medium-density fibreboard (MDF) that they’re cutting in the refresh construction shop and layering with Inpro, a high quality laminate that matches the walls in the West Tower. The entire process is a fraction of the cost of using custom-ordered walls.

Hein says the headwalls are just one of the ways a little ingenuity can produce a better result, all while building pride among the team.

“Contractors are fine, but I’m old school, from Cox North, where we used to do all this ourselves. It was your job and you felt good,” Hein says. “A person doing a job in-house, they take pride in what they’re doing. We’re getting a lot of that in-house pride back and people would be surprised how much we’re saving.”

Examples of the team’s innovations are everywhere in the new construction. In the restrooms, for example, the new design features a smooth floor that eliminates the “curb” that used to serve as the edge of the shower. Now, the floors simply slope into a drain. Even as they were installing the first of the shower floors, the team saw ways of perfecting the process.

“One guy said, ‘I can make just as good a floor with a different material,’” Hein says. “I said, ‘Let’s prove it and see.’”

Rather than their first approach, they tried a different concrete subfloor product, which was about one-tenth the cost of the initial material. It worked.

The team also looked at replacing the doors, before finding a way to simply re-skin them with the same Inpro laminate used for the headwalls. When all new windows and updated window shades are in place, the original tower’s rooms will be virtually indistinguishable from those in the West Tower.

“Customers, families and friends will be impressed,” Hein says. “This is about good customer service – when we get a happy customer, word of mouth goes a long way.”

Hein says the team loves the challenge and they like being able to make a lasting difference, for the hospital and the community.

“When employees take ownership, things will go better, our customers are more satisfied and you’ll see employees with smiles on their faces,” he says. “It keeps it positive and builds on the ‘Cox family’ feel. I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead the team in this direction.”

DirectConnect now available statewide

Years ago, seeing a doctor from the comfort of one’s own home was the norm – just as it soon will be again. DirectConnect, CoxHealth’s telemedicine program, will allow most people in the state of Missouri to receive health care for common ailments remotely in the very near future.

Yes, that’s right: Instead of making an appointment, patients can be seen from their couch for things like coughs, colds, upper respiratory infections, allergies, bug bites and sore throats.

“We’re so excited about this initiative because it means that not only is health care easier to access, but it’s available to almost everyone,” says Heather Swearengin, CoxHealth’s system director of Business Development. “This opportunity is being offered directly in response to the need we saw for more accessibility in our region.”

Here’s how it works: Anyone wishing to be seen by a health care professional will simply go to our website at After filling out some initial information, a CoxHealth patient navigator will be sent the request for care. The navigator will determine the type of care required and will then contact the provider. A few minutes later, a provider will log on and see a patient via webcam before making a diagnosis. If a prescription is needed, it is sent to the pharmacy and the patient is able to use his or her health insurance just like they would when they obtain a prescription in the traditional office setting.

This service is available at the low cost of $49 for everyone, even those without insurance. Some are even able to pay a lower copay if the service is covered by their insurance plan. However, due to licensing requirements, all patients must currently be located within the state of Missouri to receive treatment. All info will be contained in a HIPAA-compliant connection, ensuring that health care information stays private.

This new technology doesn’t completely replace traditional doctor visits, because some things can only be diagnosed in person. However, with a thorough medical history review, a visual exam and interview of the patient, it is often possible to triage and treat patients without physically being in the same room with them.

This isn’t the first time that CoxHealth has ventured into telemedicine. We launched DirectConnect in 2015 by partnering with local businesses to bring virtual health care to employees. Its popularity grew quickly: Within just six months of DirectConnect’s launch, more than 50,000 lives were connected with the program.

CoxHealth invites local kids to Trunk or Treat on October 31

It’s not a trick, but it is a treat: The community’s kids (and their parents) are invited to CoxHealth’s Trunk or Treat on October 31.

“We’re hosting this Trunk or Treat because we really wanted to help families in our community,” says Lana Martin, pediatric trauma coordinator at CoxHealth. “This event will be a truly safe place for kids to have a fun Halloween.”

Instead of visiting unknown neighborhoods and high-traffic areas, this event offers a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. The event will be held at Cox South’s West Pavilion (3801 S. National Ave., Springfield), where employees will set up Halloween-themed, kid-friendly booths and distribute treats from 5 to 8 p.m.

For more information about the event, call (417) 269-0920. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Springfield Center for Dyslexia & Learning to celebrate first birthday

The Springfield Center for Dyslexia & Learning (SCDL) celebrates its first birthday in October, and the public is invited to help celebrate. From 5 – 7 p.m. on October 13, the center will be open for tours, visits, and refreshments. SCDL, which is housed in The Turner Center on CoxHealth’s campus, is a resource for local students with dyslexia. The organization works with students to provide specialized help in reading through small groups and one-on-one instruction.

“It’s been a great year, but we’re always looking for ways to help even more local kids succeed,” says Noel Leif, executive director of the center. “One in five kids has dyslexia, so we feel that this cause is one that must be addressed. It’s something that affects a large percentage of our population, and we want to help those individuals live up to their full potential.”

SCDL’s classes are open to all students, and are held at a variety of times. Through sponsorship from CoxHealth, the program’s teachers have been trained in the “Take Flight” program, a method of instruction developed at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas.  

For more information about the center or its programs, call 417-269-0259.