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Palmdale's Expansion Plans

Dick Allen, CEO at Palmdale Regional Medical Center discusses the hospital's expansion plans for the near future.
Palmdale's Expansion Plans
Featured Speaker:
Dick Allen
Mr. Allen’s career has included 20 years of experience as a hospital President/CEO. Before accepting the position of CEO at Palmdale Regional Medical Center, he was President/Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan, Kansas.

At Mercy Regional, he was responsible for the management and direction of two hospitals which were affiliated with the state’s largest health system by virtue of a merger. During his tenure at Mercy Regional, the hospital garnered national and regional recognition
including being named one of the country’s ‘Top 100 Most Improved Hospitals’ by Thomson Reuter. The Thomson Reuter recognition was based on substantial improvements in quality, patient safety and financial performance.
Mr. Allen received a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa; a master’s degree in Public Administration/Public Health from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa;

and a master’s degree in Healthcare Management from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri. He is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Mr. Allen has stated his goals center around continuing to build an environment which breeds superior quality and patient care outcomes. His belief is that high quality outcomes are created through exceptional physician relations and alignment, the development of a best in class workplace environment, a patient/family centered focus on satisfaction, and the creation of a strong bond with the community.

Under Mr. Allen’s leadership, work will continue toward physician recruitment efforts and developing Centers of Excellence for every major service line Palmdale Regional provides with the ultimate goal of becoming the hospital of choice in the Antelope Valley.

Melanie Cole, MS (Host):  Palmdale Regional Medical Center has announced plans for significant expansions of the hospital to offer new service lines and to meet the growing needs of the Antelope Valley. My guest today is Dick Allen. He’s the CEO of Palmdale Regional Medical Center. Dick, what a pleasure to have you with us today. Please tell us why did Palmdale embark on this project?

Dick Allen (Guest):   The project that we’re now beginning has been in the planning stages for quite some times based upon a study of needs within the community and looking towards the future as well. So really the cornerstone of the first phase of a three phase project that we’re working on is really our development of labor and delivery services at Palmdale Regional. There actually hasn’t been a baby born in Palmdale for nearly 40 years now. In doing a lot of assessment in the community, focus groups found that that was one area of great need. So we’ll be very happy to be opening a brand new labor and delivery unit at Palmdale regional sometime next year in the late second to early third quarter. Not only will it provide general OB services, but it will also provide neonatal intensive care services and pediatric services. So we’re excited about that.

In addition to that, doing a lot of work in phase one around improving our technologies. Technologies in the area of radiology specifically with new MRI, new CT scanners. Also in our cath lab with replacement of both of our cath labs with the newest world class capability. So we’re excited about that. Along with that and along with general growth we also have to do some growth in some of our ancillary areas, such as the pharmacy, laboratory. Even support areas like our sterile supply areas to ensure we have sufficient space to allow our team to do their work in the fashion that we like them to work.

Host:   How exciting. You got to some of my questions before I asked them. So thank you so much for that. So tell us a little bit about how this expansion will effect and benefit patient care. You mentioned the new maternity labor and delivery unit. How will that impact mom and baby? How will all of this effect your patient care ability?

Dick:   I think especially when talk about OB services, we have two hospitals in the Antelope Valley, an area with roughly a half million people. The Palmdale area is actually one of the largest communities in the country without it’s own OB program. So this will provide services closer to home for a lot of those expectant moms along with their babies. So we’re excited about that, and also recognize that to this point in time nearly 1,200 mothers drive down the hill into the LA basin to deliver their babies now. So we’re hopeful that as we open this service up that many of them will choose to stay in the Antelope Valley. Certainly make it a much shorter drive from home to hospital.

Host:   So that’s great for patients. How about your staff? Dick, how is this expansion going to affect the way your staff gets to take care of patients?

Dick:   Well, I think in terms of our staff, I don’t believe we’ll be impacted any way other than the way they already provide services. We already are recognized by Leapfrog as between a B hospital in terms of Leapfrog scores. They do an exceptional job of patient care on a day to day basis. They're as excited as the community is with the expansion because many of them want to have opportunities to work in new areas or return to areas they might have worked in in the past. From a patient care point of view, particularly as it relates to our team, they're very excited. If anything, it just gives them greater opportunity.

Host:   So when will the new buildings open and when will the expanded or relocated portions of the existing hospital space be operational?

Dick:   A majority of our programming that we’re working on will be operational within the next 12 months. Our phase one strategy, which also includes the addition of a new floor for spine orthopedics and bariatrics, is slated to open within the next 36 months as well as an additional pod to our ICU—which will bring us from 24 to 32 beds in our intensive care unit. We have two other phases that are linked to this project. The second phase, which we’re doing an evaluation of now, is determining the feasibility of building an 80 to 100 bed behavioral health hospital on our campus. Finally in phase three the potential of expanding with a new patient care tower provided we have the demand in the community that would support that.

Host:   Tell us a little bit about intensive care services and the opening of that new bed nursing unit for joint, spine, and you mentioned bariatric care. Expand on that a little bit for us.

Dick:   Well, we’ve had very exceptional programming in orthopedic, spine, and bariatric care for years. In fact, our bariatric program is fully accredited and is recognized as one of the better ones on the west coast. We’re going to displace those programs to existing units when we open up our OB program, which will go in the space those programs currently occupy. So by finishing a new unit, that allows us to amalgamate those services back on one floor with the specialized teams we have that support all three of those. In terms of our intensive care, we currently have 24 beds. We have 8 bed pods in our ICU. We’ve introduced intensivist services within the last year. With that we anticipate that we’ll see a continued growth in the number of patients being transferred here with more serious health issues. So that, in turn, is driving the need to go ahead and expand the ICU out. We also get economies of scale for those that are of a business mind. By doing both units at the same time, it’ll reduce the costs of the projects.

Host:   What about evaluating potential expansion of the hospital’s emergency department? What are you looking at for that?

Dick:   Currently we have a 35 bed emergency department closing in on 80,000 visits per year, which is fairly high. We’re beginning to look at whether or not we should add an additional 12 beds to that area in space that’s already there. So it wouldn’t cause any new external construction. In the advance of doing that we’re simply working on our throughput processes to see if we can't push patients through the system more quickly and push the development of additional beds off for another year or two. I fully expect that within this three year phase one window that we’ll be adding the additional 12 beds to our ICU.

One of the things that being in Los Angeles County is that the Department of EMS really controls trauma designations. But should there ever be an issue in the community where our trauma hospital has challenges, we’re certainly willing and believe we have the space and the diagnostic capabilities to move into that role to assume trauma responsibilities if necessary.

Host:   So then along those lines, you mentioned technology before Dick. For patients in the community, one of the most exciting things is when they hear that hospitals have advanced technology. You mentioned it a little and I’d love for you to expand a little bit more on MRI and CT scanners and the cardiac cath lab. Tell us about what’s really exciting. What excites you about that?

Dick:   Well, I think that the most exciting thing—especially in the world of CT scanning—is that you're able to begin to apply applications technologically which focus on certain things more so than others. So we may have one of our scanners that is more focused on the heart and may have another one that’s more focused on breast tissue, things such as that. With the new scanners that we’re bringing in, they're effectively 256 slice scanners. Those are about the fastest scanners you’ll ever see for application in general healthcare. Once you go above that, the next grade up would be a 512 slice. That’s where we start to get into the research world. It’s amazing with the heart that you can capture the beat with a 256 CT. We’ll have a pair of those online this coming year in 2020.

On the MRI side, we’re really focusing more heavily in the neurosurgical world and neuro issues. Recognizing that a 1.5 tesla MRI is much more appropriate in that world than the 3.0s that we use in orthopedics, which we then hope to develop in the near future with the opening of more outpatient services.

Host:   Really is all so exciting. As we wrap up, Dick, tell the listeners what you’d like them to know about how these changes are going to effect and benefit the community and what you find are the most exciting parts that you really want them to know about.

Dick:   I think that when you look to the future, we’re aligned with the future already. Once all of the technology takes off, the breadth of services we’re providing, we truly are a full service hospital. One program we didn’t mention was our acute rehabilitation program, which just opened about two years ago. We have some of the highest technologies you can find in the acute rehab world in that facility as well, which handles our spinal cord trauma, brain trauma, and stroke patients. So we’re very excited about that addition, which is quite frankly the only service of it’s kind in the high desert region of southern California. So when you look at what we have all together programmatically and with the replacement of our technologies, we really are a brand new hospital all over again. I would close by saying that really, I think—and we’re starting to see it within our community—patients when they come in here are really discovering the difference.

Host:   What great information, Dick. It was such a pleasure to have you join us today. What an exciting expansion. I hope that you’ll join us again as things progress and let us know how it’s going. Thank you, again, for being with us. That wraps up another episode of Palmdale Regional Radio with Palmdale Regional Medical Center. You can head on over to our website at for more information and to get connected with one of our providers. If you found this podcast as interesting as I did, please share on your social media. Share with others that you know that could also get excited about this expansion and be sure not to miss all the other interesting podcasts in our library.

Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Palmdale Regional Medical Center. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians. Until next time, this is Melanie Cole.