Friday, August 29, 2008

Cox EMS responds to Tropical Storm Gustav

On the third anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, two CoxHealth Emergency Medical Services crews left Springfield to respond to the threat from another storm in that same region.

Tropical Storm Gustav is expected to be a major hurricane when it comes ashore Tuesday. Pre-Hospital Services director Mark Alexander says Cox is sending two ambulances with three crew members each to the staging area at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. From there, the crews will get their specific assignments.

“Our two teams will be helping to evacuate people from nursing homes and hospitals,” says Alexander. “We all remember the sad stories coming out of hospitals in New Orleans with Katrina. The idea is to get there early and get people who can’t leave on their own out of harm’s way.”

One ambulance crew is stationed in Webster County. It includes supervisor Darrelene Smallwood, Ed Noland, EMT; and Fred Osbourn, who is a paramedic.

The second ambulance is stationed in Dade County. Its crew consists of David Compton, supervisor in Dade County; Sharon Baker, EMT, and Gerald Ellis, EMT. Baker and Ellis are stationed in Springfield.

CoxHealth EMS is a subcontractor of the American Medical Response, an agency contracted by FEMA to coordinate ambulance deployments to all natural or man-made disasters.

“Katrina demonstrated that these storms can be catastrophic,” says Alexander. “With that hurricane, the call for help came days later. This response is very different thanks to the lessons learned three years ago.”

Alexander says the loss of two ambulances will not put a strain on the EMS system because Cox utilizes staffing and vehicles in its regional system to make deployments to other parts of the country possible.

“Disasters like this require a nationwide response and we are part of the system that responds,” says Alexander. “We have to be ready to deploy to any disaster, no matter what kind or where it is.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A promise fulfilled at 10,000 feet

Dr. Robert Carolla knows how to drive a hard bargain. And he knows how to follow through when his staff holds up their end of the deal ­– even if that means hurtling toward the ground at
120 mph.

That’s the position Carolla found himself in on July 4, when he did his first tandem skydive, just like he’d promised his staff when they were raising funds for Relay For Life.

“It was even more fun than I expected,” Carolla says. “It didn’t even seem like I was in the air, I just felt detached; it’s wonderful.”

The trip was the final payoff in Oncology-Hematology Associates’ fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society.

In the spring, nurse Kelly Paulie and OHA’s Relay For Life team suggested that Carolla consider jumping if they met their goal of raising $1,000.

That figure seemed low to Carolla.

“I said, ‘You’re nuts, I’m not doing that for 1,000 bucks.’ I jokingly told them, ‘I’ll do it for $10,000’ – they did it and here we are,” he says.

Over a six-week period, the staff raised $13,327 – a figure bested by only three other teams in Springfield. And, for the cause, Carolla agreed to make the jump at Skydive Skyranch in Siloam Springs, Ark.

Paulie and Carolla traveled together to Arkansas, where they met skydiver and former OHA patient Steve Babin. Paulie and three of her co-workers had made their first jumps with Babin and the crew at the Skyranch last summer.

Carolla had postponed a jump in the spring as he prepared for his daughter’s wedding in late June. Even with the extra time to prepare, he admits he was nervous as the time drew near.
“I was a little ... well, there was a small chance I might chicken out,” he says with a laugh. “Not really, but driving down I worried I might back out.”

Carolla joked with the crew before the jump that he had hoped for rain. But by the time he was in the partly cloudy skies with tandem instructor Christian Grill and pilot Wolf Grulkey, he says he was struck by the tranquility of it all.

“It’s really interesting going up to 10,000 feet, everyone is very quiet in the airplane,” he says. “It’s almost a Zen experience.”

Above the drop zone, Grill opened the door and he and Carolla leaned forward and jumped into position, belly down and parallel with the fields below. Carolla says he was struck by the rush of wind during the first half of the dive.

Once the main parachute opened, Carolla and Grill were brought upright and they were able to steer the parachute to the airstrip below.

“It makes you really excited and pumped,” Carolla says. On the ground, Fourth of July foods like hamburgers and hotdogs were available, but he says he was too excited to eat. “I was so revved up!

“It was thrilling, but there’s a sense of peace, too. I can see why people do it.”

Carolla says the jump was everything he had hoped it would be, and it’s an illustration of the opportunities that await him as he enters retirement this month.

“This is something I secretly always wanted to do,” he says. “I’m a cautious person, yet I have an adventurous streak.

“Sometimes people retire and they feel like they’re over the hill and there are no new challenges. That’s not the way I’m planning to retire. I’m ready for more challenges.”

Bed board wins innovator award

Since its implementation last year, the bed board at CoxHealth has helped improve service for patients by tracking bed occupancy throughout the hospital. Now the technology has earned Cox recognition with an Innovator Award from Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

The bed board was recognized in the magazine’s July issue, which featured its 10th annual listing of the 100 Most Wired Hospitals and Health Systems. The Innovator Award specifically recognizes hospitals that have pursued technical advances related to their missions.

The bed board was developed in house by Information Technology’s eHealth team in 2007.

Chief information officer Bruce Robison says the team looked at applications from vendors, but nothing suited Cox’s specific needs. To be efficient, the system would need to be able to interface with other software applications and current systems used by departments ranging from Admissions to Environmental Services.

“The purchased product wouldn’t do that out of the box, so we had to develop something more specialized,” Robison says. “We were able to do it at a far lower cost, too. We would have paid four or five times more than the cost of development to purchase a product.”

The bed board system is monitored from an office in the tunnel at Cox South, where registration specialists monitor the status of more than 500 patient beds on two 55-inch flat-screen monitors. Like air-traffic controllers for the hospital, the registration team coordinates the flow of patients by tracking which beds are full and which are open.

Elise Jones, a registration specialist in Admissions, says the board also allows “bed ahead” planning, in which beds can be requested based on anticipated need.

“If a patient is having surgery and we know they’ll need to stay, this lets the floor pull up a report that shows how many patients we’re expecting,” Jones says.

The board also shows the registration team a large amount of at-a-glance information about the beds. Beds coded green are open; pink indicates a bed occupied by a female, blue by a male. Brown-coded beds are dirty; orange ones are blocked by a doctor’s order.

“The nice thing about this is there’s a lot of information, but there’s no personal information,” Jones says. “It works like a charm.”

On patient floors, information is featured on screens mounted at each nurses’ station. Graphics show the status of each bed and in the center, a traffic-signal graphic shows the overall status of beds throughout the system. Robison says it’s an improvement over the previous system, under which it was more difficult for staff to see the complete picture at a glance.

“This shows the layout of the floor, so we all know exactly where we stand here,” he says. “The system really benefits the patients because we can move patients in and out more quickly and accommodate their needs more effectively.

“It’s a win-win – we know more about what we’re doing and it’s better for our patients.”

Recycling efforts now include all paper

In an ongoing effort to expand recycling at CoxHealth, the Environmental Leadership Council recently announced that staff will now be able to recycle all paper via the locked bins located on patient floors and in various departments.

The bins, currently located near the transportation elevators in the main hospital, have long been used for some types of paper recycling. Now, through an agreement with Midwest Fiber, the bins will be able to accept any and all paper – everything from printouts to newsprint and glossy paper. The bins can also accept confidential paperwork without prior shredding.

“Everything in the bins is locked up and then shredded, so people can feel secure in putting things in there unshredded,” says Shana Tauai, co-chair of the Environmental Leadership Council.

While metal binding clips will need to be removed, stapled paper can be recycled with staples intact.

Midwest Fiber will continue to collect the bins regularly and Environmental Services director Ronnie Lightfoot says adjustments in the collection schedule will be made as need dictates.

“It will create some additional volume for the EVS team and we might have to accommodate some of the areas that do more paper handling with an additional bin or two,” Lightfoot says.
Tauai says she hopes the move will encourage employees to recycle and to think about waste reduction in general. She and Lightfoot say it’s important for employees to ask “do I really need to print this?”

“Using less paper in the first place helps even more than recycling,” Lightfoot says.

In other CoxHealth environmental updates:

• A plan is under way to remove the light bulbs in all vending machines on Cox campuses. Lightfoot says that at a similar-sized organization that change resulted in a $15,000 utility savings annually.

• Drury’s Students In Free Enterprise chapter is completing its analysis of CoxHealth’s carbon footprint and the results are expected soon.

• Tentative plans are under way to develop a recycling center at Cox South. Council leaders are working with the city on a plan to place bins for metal, glass and paper recycling on the south campus. The location would serve as a drop-off point for employees and the community.

Annual Wellness EXPO set for September 20

CoxHealth is hosting the 5th Annual Wellness EXPO, Saturday, Sept. 20, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., at The Meyer Center.

This event, which is open to the public, includes more than a dozen health screenings, informational booths, car seat checks, helicopter tours and more. For a complete list of activities and screenings, call 269-INFO or visit the “events & classes” calendar at

Cox North gets front-row seat for tour

Teresa Goodson isn’t necessarily a fan of professional cycling, but the secretary at the CoxHealth Library couldn’t resist joining dozens of other Cox North employees for a glimpse of the Tour of Missouri Pro Cycling Race as it sped by the campus last year.

“A huge group of us lined Jefferson Street to watch the race,” says Goodson. “When we finally saw the riders coming toward us, we started cheering. It was really fun.”

The cheers didn’t last long since the professional cyclists were traveling at high speeds on the straightaway down Jefferson Street towards the finish line at Kimbrough Avenue and East Trafficway.

Gail Lurvey, a graphic designer in the Marketing department, was able to take just a few photographs. “We saw the cyclists and then they were gone. They were going so fast, it was over so quickly,” she says.

The Tour of Missouri is an international cycling event that began in 2007 and attracted an estimated 370,000 spectators to Missouri over six days. This year’s race features one more day, more hills and three new courses to challenge the cyclists.

CoxHealth employees will get to see more of the action during the 2008 Tour of Missouri because of a slight change in the 126-mile Stage 2 route from Clinton as it rolls into Greene County Tuesday, Sept. 9. CoxHealth is once again the Stage 2 title sponsor.

The field of 120 world-class cyclists from 15 elite professional teams will enter Springfield on Division Street. Instead of veering onto Commercial as they did last year, the riders will continue on Division, passing along the north side of Cox North, and then turn south onto Jefferson before heading for three finish circuits around downtown Springfield.

Chris Flouer, director of Cox Fitness Centers who is helping to coordinate the events at Cox North, says the campus will get more attention this year. “We expect more spectators so we are adding more games and entertainment as well as another bleacher to our parking lot,” says Flouer.

Flouer says spectators can visit the Health and Wellness Expo at the Mediacom Ice Park lot, which will feature booths and entertainment from noon through the finish, which is expected around 4 p.m.

The second annual Community Bike Ride will take place on Monday evening, Sept. 8, for families to experience the circuit that the cyclists will be racing the next day.

CoxHealth employees have the chance to take part in the race as volunteers. Barb Baker, a member of the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee, says 300 extra hands are needed to help with the second annual event. “The biggest need is for course marshals who will be manning areas along the course like intersections and driveways to prevent people from crossing the course before the cyclists come through,” says Baker.

Volunteers can view a list of available jobs and sign up to work during the 2008 Tour of Missouri by visiting

Employee picnic set for September 13

Make plans now to attend this year’s annual employee picnic, planned for Saturday, Sept. 13, at Lake Springfield. The family event will be held from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and will feature a variety of carnival games and food from KFC and Rib Crib.

Employees interested in displaying or selling home-made crafts at the picnic can call Cheryl Dunn in Human Resources at 269-3016.

Doctor sells car, turns to bike for commute

Dr. Shelby Smith says he’s always been an advocate for energy conservation, but in the last few months he’s taken a bold step to be environmentally responsible and trim the family budget. Instead of driving to and from work, he has turned to cycling and jogging as his modes of daily transportation.

For Dr. Smith and his wife, the decision to become a one-car family has required a little extra planning, but he says the financial, health and environmental benefits are worth the trade.

The Smiths live about three miles from where Dr. Smith works at Cox Family Medicine Associates in Hulston Cancer Center. They’re the new parents of an 18-month-old son and, in examining their family budget, they asked themselves if two car payments were really necessary.

“If you have a car payment plus gas and insurance, giving up one car can save hundreds of dollars each month,” Dr. Smith says. Both of their vehicles got good gas mileage, but they decided to sell their Toyota Matrix.

“We sold it to a family that commutes to work, so we were able to help all of us with gas,” Dr. Smith says.

Since then, Dr. Smith has consolidated his daily exercise routine with his commuting, either riding his bicycle or jogging to and from work.

“You get the exercise and save money at the same time,” he says. He arrives at Hulston early and uses a shower in a second floor bathroom to prepare for work.

“I have three sets of work clothes,” he says with a laugh, noting that shuffling clothes between home, the office and the cleaners is one of the adjustments the family has made. Now, though, they’ve settled into a routine.

“Once the details are set up, it’s just another thing you do,” he says. “It forces us to work together to plan out how we’ll use the car together.”

On the days when weather makes riding or running to work impractical, Dr. Smith says taking the city bus is another opportunity to multi-task.

“I’m able to pull out the newspaper instead of dealing with Springfield’s rush hour traffic,” he says.

His favorite days, though, are the ones when he gets a few extra moments of solitude riding through residential streets early in the morning.

“Springfield is a great town for biking because there are so many back roads to ride,” he says. “It’s really peaceful.

“And, it’s a relief to ride by Kum & Go and know that I’m not having to pay for gas today.”