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franklin county times

Specialty Hospital celebrates 10th anniversary

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
October 25, 2004
Libby Mitchell, vice president of The Specialty Hospital of Meridian, and Donnie Smith, corporate director of human resources and public relations for Rush Health Systems, the hospital's parent company, were editorial board guests of The Meridian Star last week.
They discussed the mission of The Specialty Hospital of Meridian a long-term, acute care hospital that will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Thursday.
The Meridian Star: Will you give us an overview of The Specialty Hospital of Meridian?
Libby Mitchell: The Specialty Hospital of Meridian is a long-term acute care hospital. We are just like Rush, Riley and Anderson's, except our patients stay 25 days or greater; that's the Medicare regulation that is different than for short-term hospitals.
We officially opened in September of 1994 as a 20-bed hospital. As time went on, we grew to a 40-bed facility. Now we are a 49-bed facility. We have the entire first floor of Rush Foundation Hospital as far as the patient care area is concerned.
The Star: Who are the typical patients The Specialty Hospital of Meridian treats?
Mitchell: The Specialty Hospital of Meridian is one of 22 in the nation that is a hospital within a hospital. We've had patients from 14 up to 103 years old. The patients we get are typically in three different categories.
The first category is medically complex, these are patients that have been in the hospital for a long time because they have a wound infection and they need six weeks of IV (intravenous) therapy, or they've had open heart surgery and they need to stay longer.
The second program we have is the pulmonary program. We have quite a few ventilators. We've had up to 13 ventilators in use at one time. These patients are mostly in private rooms. We have found the patients do better when they are able to be with their family members. When family members are able to stay at the bedside of a patient on a vent, it keeps them calmer.
Our third program is our rehabilitation services physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and then we have certified recreational therapists. Patients who come to this would be patients who have had a stroke, patients who have had amputations, patients who have had some type of major surgery.
The Star: What types of changes have you seen over the years with The Specialty Hospital of Meridian?
Mitchell: Anything in medicine is going to change. It's not going to stay the same for six months. When I think of changes, I think of technology changes. I think of changes like the different kinds of beds to relieve pressure on patients.
I've been in health care for more than 20 years and Specialty is the way it was when I first got into health care. We had the patient come in the hospital, go through their diagnostic tests, we could do emotional support, we could do all those types of things.
Now when a patient is admitted into an acute-care hospital, like Rush Foundation Hospital, after three days they will have gone home or to us. Our patients have the benefit of being admitted into Specialty and we get them well enough start therapy to get their strength back up. Our goal is restoring quality to life. That's our motto.
Our main goal is to get our patients back to the same level they were prior to coming in, or to as close to that level as possible, with us being able to help them compensate weaknesses they may have.
The Star: What tools does the hospital use to help people in therapy?
Mitchell: We have two therapy gyms. We have an activity and daily living kitchen. The kitchen consists of a washing machine, dryer, stove, microwave, refrigerator, all the things you will use at home.
If our patients are going to go back home from the hospital and they are going to care for themselves as far as feeding, as those types of things, we take them through the activity in the daily living kitchen.
A big part of our community re-entry program is an area we call Specialty Square. We have a grocery store with shelves at different heights, buggies to push, a cash register and a garden area.
Our therapists ask our patients, What do you want to do when you go home?' Ninety-nine percent of them say, I want to go to church.' So, we have two pews and a church background. They learn how to get in and out of the pews.
We have a cafe with booths and tables and chairs. We have a home setting. We let them vacuum. We have simple things like mini-blinds, where they have to open and close them with their fingers. It's little things that you and I would never think of that some people have to re-learn.
The Star: What are the different elements of Rush Health Systems?
Donnie Smith: With Rush Health Systems there is Rush Foundation Hospital, which is a short-term acute care hospital. It's been here for 90 years next February. There's The Specialty Hospital of Meridian, a long-term acute care hospital.
We have Medical Foundation Incorporated, the clinic structure we have in the community and also, with Specialty, there are some rural clinics attached to it. We have Magna Home Care, as it is known in Mississippi, and Rush Medical Group. All those make up Rush Health Systems.

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