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PMH adjusting to St. Charles way of life

So far, transition has been a smooth one
In January, Pioneer Memorial Hospital (PMH) shifted over to a St. Charles lease agreement and so far the changes have been made without interruption.
   The Cascade Healthcare Community (CHC), which is the parent company for St. Charles in Bend, took over all the operational aspects of PMH when the lease took effect.
   "There was a lot of work up front, but it went really well," PMH Executive Director Don Wee said. "There are some advantages that are related to that, opportunities, access to the capital market and there are better opportunities. It's just a bigger system."
   With the change, the employees had to transfer to CHC's pay scale, health insurance, vacation package and pension program.
   "When we transitioned, the intent was to try to keep the PMH employees equal or whole in the transition. In some areas they may have gained some things, in some areas they may have lost some things," Wee said. "When it was all said and done, the intent was that they were equal if not better. I believe we have met that criteria."
   As CHC and PMH hosted a benefits fair, employees were guided through the process of changing their benefits.
   "Our employees had to register into their system, because they (CHC) are self-insured," the PMH executive director said. "The pension was a different plan. Whoever wanted to had to go through the enrollment process."
   One of the highlights for employees was the addition of multiple locations, opening up the ability to transfer within CHC.
   "If you are an employee here and vice versa and wanted to work in Bend or Redmond, you could just transfer over," Wee continued. "If they worked in Bend and lived here, they could do the same thing. I think that's been one of the benefits of it. It allows for career development. If it's an RN, they can just transfer over. Then they won't lose their longevity. If you quit a company and go to a new one, you might lose your benefits. This way they won't lose that."
   With the financial backing of CHC, PMH is now able to install programs which otherwise may not have been managed.
   "The first quarter of 2009 is when we hope to implement an electronic medical record system," Wee said. "If we were a stand-alone, it would be pretty difficult to do that because of cost and complexity of the whole system."
   The system will help PMH interact with physicians and hospitals throughout the region and country.
   "If the physician has the capability and the format, basically you do away with the paper," Wee added. "We have some snowbirds around here. If they went down to the Arizona area, their physician could be sent their electronic record. In this case, the patient record, with the physician orders, the nurses' notes and any test results from lab or radiology."
   The new electronic system will be one of the biggest changes felt throughout the company, with the St. Charles of Bend and Redmond also transferring to the program.
   "Currently, St. Charles has a different system, so they're converting," Wee said. "We've never had it here, at all. We still have the paper. We do some electronic billing related to charges, but not the full-fledged medical record."
   With changes in store and alterations completed, PMH is hoping to offer the patients the same courtesy as usual.
   "Every place has its own little culture, so to speak," the executive director said. "Ours is focused on trying to do the right thing and have good customer service. That doesn't change."