Nichols Outlines Hospital Progress
LaFAYETTE — EAMC-Lanier Hospital Administrator Greg Nichols was the guest speaker Thursday at the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast, sponsored and hosted by Alfa Insurance in LaFayette. Nichols and his family have lived in Chambers County for more than a decade, and he assumed his current position about a year ago. Before coming to Valley, Nichols worked at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, but was familiar with the legacy of Lanier.
"The hospital had a strong history of providing quality health care to the community," said Nichols. "But, unfortunately, the facility's financial issues had grown to the point that it was losing between two and three million dollars per year." Nichols added that the main factor in EAMC's decision to merge with the local hospital was the ad valorem tax passed by Chambers County voters that was earmarked for Lanier's benefit. "Our initial goal was to become financially stable," Nichols said. "The first year, we made a profit of $432, and from there we've grown our profit margin to more than $2 million annually." That growth and success has been accomplished through the consolidation of some services and the elimination of others. For example, the hospital closed its obstetric labor and delivery unit at the end of last year. "That was a difficult decision for us," said Nichols. "But we realized the number of local deliveries was declining as more people chose to utilize the services of other surrounding facilities in Opelika and LaGrange. It has turned out to be a very positive move for us."
Improvements currently being undertaken by the hospital include a new electronic filing system that will integrate with EAMC's entire healthcare network, representing a $12 million investment. Another $1 million has been spent over the past year on new state-of-the-art equipment, made possible in large part by the local ad valorem tax. "We've also focused major attention on improving the overall quality of care, which will be an ongoing effort," said Nichols. "The bottom line is patient satisfaction, and that's why we've established a patient advisory council to provide input and suggestions on how we can make the hospital experience better." Going forward, a series of facility improvements has already been scheduled, beginning next month with a $700,000 renovation of the emergency department. That project will be followed by a $2.5 million renovation of the EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home and improvements to the hospital's kitchen and dining facilities. "We will spend a total of $5 million over the next three years on facility improvements and upgrades," said Nichols.
Meanwhile, there is an active effort to recruit more highly skilled physicians to the medical staff, expand occupational health services and create new physical therapy and rehabilitation units, as well as continuing involvement in the "School At Work" program, which allows employees to advance their education while maintaining a fulltime job. "We want to also increase our role of being a good community partner, working collectively with other agencies and organizations to make the Valley a better place for all of us," Nichols concluded.
Article and Photo by Wayne Clark of VTN