Published December 15. 2011 4:00AM
New London - When board members arrived Wednesday for Lawrence & Memorial Hospital's annual meeting, they entered a newly renovated lobby with earth-tone carpeting and furniture, expanded seating area and information desk, a fountain resembling a window of water and a redesigned coffee shop.
Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cummings said the $850,000 worth of lobby renovations are an important symbol of what's ahead for the 280-bed nonprofit hospital, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in the coming year.
During the annual meeting, Cummings and other hospital leaders presented a picture of a financially stable institution that has achieved many successes in the past year as it prepares for the challenges of 2012.
It ended the 2011 fiscal year with a 3.7 percent operating margin of revenues over expenses, slightly down from the 2010 fiscal year.
"A plateau is really what we're looking at," said Lou Inzana, vice president and chief financial and support services officer. "We're very consistent with the previous year."
The fiscal 2011 operating margin looks especially strong when compared against that of many other hospitals in the state, he added.
While L&M plans to break ground on a new 50,000-square foot, $36.2 million cancer center in Waterford in May, it also wanted to send a message that major renovations and expansion of the main building in New London are also in the future. The cancer center will be built on a 100-acre site the hospital purchased in February.
"The lobby really needed a facelift, and we couldn't wait until we did a comprehensive update of the main campus to do it," Cummings said.
During his presentation, Cummings highlighted these and other initiatives and successes in the past year:
• Staff have been trained on how to undertake "crucial conversations" about patient safety concerns with other staff.
• The Best Care Coordinating Council, comprised of hospital staff and medical providers outside the hospital, began meeting about how to provide better, more consistent care to patients in different settings and reduce hospital readmissions. Medicare is offering financial rewards for reduced readmissions.
• Quality and patient milestones achieved include 15 months without any ventilator-associated pneumonias; 12 months without any severe pressure ulcers; and 18 months with only one central line infection in the Intensive Care Unit.
• The Pequot Health Center was named one of the five most improved emergency departments nationally for patient satisfaction by Press Ganey, a health care performance rating company.
• Major capital investments include $5 million for energy system improvements; $4.5 million for information technology; $4 million for a linear accelerator; and $1.1 million for pharmacy automation.
• Forty-one new registered nurses were hired and brought through a new orientation and training program designed to reduce attrition.
• A design for the new cancer center was developed in a three-day process involving staff from L&M and affiliated doctors from Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, along with nine former cancer patients, architects and the hospital's building contractor. L&M has had a longstanding relationship with Yale and has signed a letter of intent toward an agreement with Dana-Farber. A final agreement is expected to be completed next month.
• Thirty-seven patients have received bariatric surgery since L&M began offering it in October 2010.