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There’s been plenty of change at Citizens Memorial Hospital in 2020 – both planned and unplanned.
On the planned side, Gary Fulbright succeeded the retiring Donald Babb in January as CEO. He’s just the second person to hold the top executive role for the 38-year-old Bolivar-based rural health care system.
Just a couple months later, the unexpected arrival of the coronavirus pandemic quickly provided challenges to the health care industry that continue today. For CMH, some of the changes were a temporary suspension of elective surgeries, establishment of a drive-thru testing tent for those with COVID-19 symptoms and offering telehealth options for patients and long-term care residents.
“In the emergency room, we traditionally had around 50 visits per day,” Fulbright says of pre-pandemic levels. “During the first few months of the pandemic, there were days we had around 20 visits.”
As of June 1, elective surgeries are back to 100% of the normal rate, he says, while mandatory safety protocols, such as staff and visitors wearing face masks, remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Fulbright’s ascension to CEO was one of several executive moves for CMH in January. Michael Calhoun was named chief operating officer for the hospital, while Beverly Derrickson became COO of the CMH Foundation. Renee Meyer, a nearly 30-year CMH employee, assumed Fulbright’s former role as chief financial officer.
It was a year of growth in 2019 for the hospital system, as revenue reached $514.9 million – nearly $14 million more than its 2018 total of $501.4 million. The employee count also increased slightly to 2,157 from 2,137 in 2018.
The health system added an $8.7 million long-term care center in April 2019, when it opened the 90-bed Lake Stockton Healthcare Facility. In September 2019, CMH purchased Stephens Pharmacy Inc. from Mike Stephens, a state representative from Bolivar.
“That was something we had looked at for a few years,” Fulbright says of the pharmacy acquisition. “We thought it was a good thing for him and for us. We’re glad to be able to fold that into our organization.”
CMH remains committed to community engagement in its eight-county service area. Its school health expo program for area public and private schools screens over 12,000 children annually. Additionally, CMH physicians volunteer time at free clinics in collaboration with local county health departments.
A new clinic in Willard is also on the horizon. Fulbright says land has been purchased with the goal of constructing a roughly $2.5 million, 8,400-square-foot facility by summer 2021.
“We’re excited about that,” he says. “This will be our entry into Willard.”
CMH officials previously announced some $26 million in expansion plans for the Bolivar hospital. But the project, which includes an expanded emergency department, remains in the planning phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are still working hard at that and have meetings coming up to discuss when we should move forward,” Fulbright says.
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