See what it is about this dynamic, small-city health system that makes it a top choice for the Dixon area, and a destination for the next generation of rural-health specialists.
One of the finest legacies anyone can bestow is immediate, convenient access to quality, affordable health care.
When Judge Solomon Bethea lost his beloved wife, Katherine Shaw Bethea, to tuberculosis in 1897, he reacted by donating land with an existing building at 403 E. First St., Dixon. The property was to be used for a community hospital, with the provision that it forever be named after his wife. Today, Katherine Shaw Bethea (KSB) Hospital is an 80-bed, acute care facility. While the building has undergone constant improvements and expansion, the founding premise and promise have remained the same: to serve the greater Dixon community by delivering the best possible medical services on the strength of the best possible medical personnel.
When David L. Schreiner took over as president and chief executive officer (CEO) this year on April 1, he had already worked at KSB for 20 years, starting as director of the hospital’s medical imaging department. With a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of St. Francis, Joliet, and more than four years as chief operating officer, Schreiner was well positioned to continue the strong leadership established by retiring president and CEO Darryl Vandervort.
“When Darryl came to KSB 28 years ago, the hospital employed about 350,” says Schreiner. “Today, it employs roughly 1,100. The growth has been enormous, just in the latest census.”
Growth directly influences the need for more and better medical services in communities. KSB has responded by hiring six specialists and two primary care doctors, and by launching a multi-phased emergency department (ED) and outpatient surgery construction project, all during the past two years. With ED visits increasing by nearly 10 percent during the past six years, the new department will not only double its capacity, but also offer increased privacy and safety, along with added technology and trauma capability.
The opening of the new ED last fall was the first phase of the ED/Outpatient Surgery construction project. KSB’s old emergency room (ER), patient entrance and parking lot have been closed to allow for construction. Phase 2 involves remodeling the old ER, which will be incorporated into the new ED to make the entire emergency center about 15,000 square feet.
When both phases are done, the new ED will nearly double its number of patient rooms, including those dedicated to obstetrics and ear, nose and throat patients.
The nurses’ station in the new ED is about three times larger than the old one and has 13 exam rooms. Other features include an updated monitoring system, new overhead lighting, a larger trauma room and a drive-through ambulance garage, with three bays instead of two.
Phase 3 will focus on remodeling and expanding the current Outpatient Surgery (OP) Department. When completed in 2012, a total of 30,000 square feet will have been added to both the ED and OP surgery areas, doubling the size of each; the number of surgical suites will have increased from four to six.
Beyond the hospital facility, KSB has multiple clinics that provide primary care in Amboy, Ashton, Oregon and Polo, with tenant practices for dentistry, chiropractic and other specialties.
“We call them a one-stop shop for medical services,” says Schreiner. “We have 60 doctors on staff, which is not something you see often in Illinois. We began in 1988 to assemble the scope of medical services, which were under-supplied in the Dixon area. People need this level of care and, frankly, KSB couldn’t survive without it. The only cases we don’t keep here involve babies with special needs, open-heart surgeries and neural conditions.”
In fact, treatment regimens have improved so dramatically, and KSB’s cardiac cath lab is so state-of-the-art, that only 5 percent of KSB heart patients require bypass surgery, according to KSB cardiologist Dr. Monther El Bzour.
“We haven’t referred anyone out for open-heart surgery in more than two years,” El Bzour says. “With the new technology of intervention, only a minority of people need to go for coronary bypass surgery. The vast majority of cases we can take care of right here at KSB.”
El Bzour adds that it’s somewhat unusual for a hospital the size of KSB to have such an advanced cardiac cath lab and three full-time cardiologists: Dr. Laxman Iyer, Dr. Sohail Hanif and El Bzour. “We’re trying to act not as a small, rural hospital but as a very experienced, capable facility,” says El Bzour. “We have a lot of experience, we all trained in Chicago at very busy, advanced facilities, and we’ve brought all of that expertise and training to KSB.”
KSB also prides itself on being a teaching hospital, with six residents in the family medicine residency program who are affiliated with the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford. Through other partnerships, it has a podiatry resident and a physician’s assistant resident, as well. “We’re also beginning a pharmacy partnership with U of I,” Schreiner adds.
Dr. Timothy Appenheimer, director of KSB Medical Group, a KSB physician for more than 25 years, points out that KSB’s family medicine residency is among the most sophisticated upper-level programs available to post-graduate students, especially those interested in rural medicine.
“There’s a crying need for rural doctors, not so much here, but in less-populated regions of the country,” he says. “We’re a University of Illinois facility where residents do inpatient and outpatient practices. They may see patients during hospital rounds, then spend time in one of our specialist’s offices, such as that of Dr. Donald Lewis, an ear, nose and throat physician. In the afternoon, they see patients in their own practices and are possibly on call at night. While residents are now limited to 80 hours a week, it’s still a tough schedule.”
Graduates from Rockford spend the first year of residency at SwedishAmerican Hospital in Rockford and commute to KSB one or two days each week. They spend their second and third years of residency in KSB, receiving their licenses to practice after two years, but needing the third year to achieve their board certifications in family medicine. KSB hosts two post-grads at each level of residency at any one time.
“Family medicine requires a broad knowledge of medicine, as opposed to depth for specialty fields,” says Appenheimer. “While specialists focus sharply on a narrow spectrum of ailments, a family medicine practitioner must be able to see the patient’s entire picture. Right now, there are slightly more women than men preparing for family and rural medicine. It’s a field that is much in demand.”
The teaching program has attracted excellent residents, thanks in part to a well-coordinated team effort by administration and specialty physicians willing to pass their wisdom to the next generation, says Appenheimer.
“It’s a vital element of KSB to teach these graduates, and we receive great support from U of I,” he says. “I helped get the program up and running. Now, Dr. Merry Demko is our resident director. We have a long-term commitment to train doctors, imparting the latest in medicine, technology and procedures.”
KSB also trains many nurses through nearby Sauk Valley College, including pharmacy, physical therapy and respiration therapy.
With the family medicine residency program well established, Appenheimer is now helping to develop KSB’s new hospitalist program, where he serves as medical director. A hospitalist is a physician whose sole practice is the care of hospitalized patients, from the time they are admitted through discharge. The program provides continuous, coordinated care to inpatients. Many of KSB’s primary care physicians participate. Patients of those primary care doctors, should they become hospitalized at KSB, will receive inpatient care from one of KSB’s hospitalists. Over the past decade, hospital medicine has become a specialty, as more and more primary care doctors become weighed down with office practices. Hospitalists can devote full-time attention to inpatients. Currently, 60 percent of hospitals in the United States use these services. KSB began its program in October 2010.
KSB hospitalists are able to give immediate attention to a patient’s medical needs, responding promptly to new test results or changes in a patient’s condition. Additionally, the hospitalist leads an interdisciplinary team in a discussion that ensures all details of a patient’s care are addressed and that all of their care providers are “on the same page.” The team may include nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, utilization management nurses and other hospital staff involved in a patient’s care.
“The program is not just doctors doing their own thing,” says Appenheimer. “It’s a coordinated team effort in patient care. It’s exciting to see this team approach to medicine and its tremendous potential benefits to the patient. There is structured communication and decision-making, and everyone is on the same page as far as care and treatment.”
The hospitalist team, which includes the doctors, nursing staff and representatives from the pharmacy, social work, dietary and utilization management areas, meets each morning to review and discuss each inpatient’s case.
As KSB has grown through the decades, introducing and expanding its fields in response to population growth and need, it has also reached out to the greater Dixon community with vital services. Wellness, prevention, education and emergency preparedness are as important to the hospital’s effectiveness as they are to the community’s overall health and lifestyle.
“We hold a variety of community classes and events that run the whole gamut of health and wellness issues,” says Mary Mahan-Deatherage, KSB director of marketing. “In addition to training paramedics, supporting local sports programs and partnering with Junior Achievement and the YMCA, we provide diabetes education, health and awareness screenings, cardio-resuscitation training and senior programs.”
KSB hosts quarterly senior breakfasts, which focus on a wide range of topics that are driven by senior interests. These include a question-and-answer session that has proven valuable in providing insight into senior citizen health concerns.
“KSB partners with the University of Illinois School of Medicine, Rockford, on a program that teaches careers in medicine beyond the traditional,” Mahan-Deatherage continues. “It’s a really cool program that also allows us to track how many students actually go into the fields.”
KSB also offers a childbirth program that dovetails with its annual BabyPalooza, held at Sauk Valley College. Childbirth classes include Lamaze, breast feeding and sibling preparedness.
“Our BabyPalooza is designed for new and expectant parents and showcases the latest in neonatal and OB/GYN care,” Mahan-Deatherage says. “My favorite part is the diaper derby, in which babies race down lanes to see who finishes first. It’s so popular that community members who are not new or expectant parents come just to see the fun.”
KSB’s annual Women’s Health and Lifestyle event covers a host of subjects, attracts more than 60 vendors and offers between 10 and 20 free screenings.
“It’s especially valuable for the under-insured and uninsured women in our community,” Mahan-Deatherage says. “BabyPalooza attracts about 1,000 visitors, and the Women’s Health and Lifestyle Fair brings in around 800 more.
Considering the size of the greater Dixon community, they’re very well attended.” Dixon is home to about 15,000 residents and KSB serves several smaller communities as well.
Hospitals rely heavily on volunteer services. Mahan-Deatherage says that KSB recorded nearly 11,000 volunteer hours in 2010, an impressive statistic for a relatively small city. Even more impressive is the community’s positive perception of KSB. A recent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems ranked KSB among the very best in the nation for patient satisfaction. About 74 percent of respondents rated the hospital with either a 9 or 10, on a scale of 1 to 10, placing KSB in the 80th percentile nationwide. Nearly 78 percent of respondents said they would recommend KSB to family and friends, placing it in the 83rd percentile.
“Those are impressive rankings, when you consider the thousands of hospitals surveyed nationwide,” says Mahan-Deatherage.
With its aggressive expansion and dedicated teaching programs, KSB is growing for the greater good of the communities it serves. In an era when people expect accessible, top-quality health care close to home, KSB stands out for its continuing efforts to provide the best in medical and wellness care. ❚