Saunders Medical Center History

Saunders Medical Center Enters a New Era in Health Care | Historical Overview

 by Cheryl Points, SMC Public Relations Coordinator in 2005

In 1929, the Wahoo Lions Club raised approximately $12,000. Those funds eventually were used to purchase the land on which the Saunders County Community Hospital would be constructed in 1951. In 1975 a long-term care center was added to the campus, and in 1992 a physicians' clinic was constructed with funds donated by the Louis P. Coleman Estate – Saunders County Health Services was born.

"In their day," said Earl Sheehy, Saunders Medical Center's President and CEO, "the current hospital and long-term care center were considered state-of-the-art, and Saunders County residents felt privileged to have access to such modern facilities. But over the years patients' and residents' expectations have dramatically changed -- as have governmental standards." One of those standards includes the Life Earl Sheehy, SMC's President & CEO Ron Romans, SMC's Chairman of the Board Earl Sheehy participates in groundbreaking ceremony Ron Romans (center) discusses the construction project Annette Stanton (SMC's CFO), Pat Dailey (SMC's Imaging Dept. Supervisor), and Earl Sheehy review plans for the new campus Safety Code. As a result of changes in this code during the years following the construction of the hospital, Saunders Medical Center became "grandfathered" under the 1965 Life Safety Code via a waiver granted by Nebraska Health and Human Services. Effective March, 2006, this waiver program was no longer available through the State of Nebraska, but must be sought through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' regional offices.

Facing the potential loss of this waiver, the changing expectations from patients and residents, and an aged facility that made remodeling financially prohibitive, the Board of Trustees of Saunders Medical Center determined that the solution was to construct a new hospital, long-term care residence and physicians' clinic. After several years of studies, discussions and public forums, in July, 2005 the voters of Saunders County chose to pass a bond issue for the purchase of land and construction of a new hospital, clinic and long-term care residence on a 42-acre site just south of Wahoo on Highway 77.

"The Saunders County community pulled together when faced with a great need for its health care," said Ron Romans, Saunders Medical Center's Chairman of the Board. Once the bond issue was passed, a groundbreaking ceremony took place in November, 2005.

Earl Sheehy, President and CEO of Saunders Medical Center, was one of the many enthusiastic supporters who weathered rain and mud to celebrate this momentous occasion. "We felt privileged to be able to use the same shovel that was used to break ground for the current facility," said Sheehy.

During the design phase of the project, staff met with architects from Hoefer Wysocki (whose offices are located in Kansas City) to ensure a design that was not only patient-focused but functional. As part of this process, SMC leaders approved the installation of an MRI (which is currently a mobile service) and a 16-slice CT scanner. In both the hospital and long-term care residence all rooms are private, and staff has adequate workspace. As the new campus neared completion, it became apparent that the name "Saunders County Health Services" did not fully reflect the quality and range of services provided. Saunders County Health Services became Saunders Medical Center.

"As you walk through the new building, you will find that every effort was made to design a facility that was functional and efficient for staff, patients, residents and visitors alike," said Sheehy.

Saunders Medical Center did not stop at investing in improving the comfort and convenience of its patients and long-term care residents. Significant investments have been made in technology, with plans for future investments. Fully integrated electronic workflows and electronic patient medical records are part of our strategic goals. Saunders Medical Center’s technological vision is to streamline and improve the quality of the patient experience—from the initial point of contact, through physician orders, diagnostic procedures, pharmaceutical management, medical records documentation, and patient account management.

Over a 1½-year period, members of SMC's imaging services department, information systems staff, and administrative staff consulted with vendors and conducted on-site visits at numerous hospitals that provide imaging services. After gathering best practices and lessons learned from other facilities, it was apparent that the solution would be a fully integrated radiology information system and digital imaging/archiving process.

In early 2006 Saunders Medical Center's Board of Trustees approved the purchase and implementation of a computed radiography (CR) system and Picture Archival and Communications System (PACS). These systems allow for production, capture, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital radiographic images. The implementation of these systems has eliminated many issues associated with traditional x-rays and other imaging systems, and provide many benefits to the patient and physician. One of the primary benefits is in the form of faster diagnosis and treatment for the patient. This alone makes the investment in these systems worthwhile.

When the Saunders County Community Hospital opened in 1951, the local newspaper touted the event as "a new era in health care" for the residents of Saunders County. When the new Saunders Medical Center opens this year, we will again enter "a new era in health care!"