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Craig McCoy, Paulette Kitterman and Dr. Will Sistrunk
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
Craig McCoy, Paulette Kitterman and Dr. Will Sistrunk

2020 Health Care Champions Provider of the Year: Mercy Springfield Communities

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"Heroes Work Here,” reads signage outside of Mercy Springfield Communities’ Queen City hospital at National Avenue and Sunshine Street.

Mercy and its nearly 9,200 “hero” employees have been on the front lines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, providing care for affected patients and advocating for safety precautions during an unprecedented time in history.

Officials point out that difficult, but necessary, steps were taken to stem the tide of the virus.

“Almost immediately, Mercy shut down all elective surgeries, procedures and screening tests,” says spokesperson Sonya Kullmann. “While that had a huge impact on the bottom line, it was the right thing to do to flatten the curve and control the virus’ spread.”

At the Springfield hospital, Mercy quickly created separated areas inside the emergency room for COVID-19 patients, and a triage area was set up outside to more quickly identify those with symptoms. Patient rooms additionally were transitioned into negative-pressure rooms for COVID-19 patients, and similar steps were taken at Mercy Hospital Lebanon.

The company’s bottom line has been impacted, as evidenced by around 700 layoffs and furloughs this year, but Mercy officials cite examples to keep as many people working as possible.

For instance, some employees were transitioned to personal protective equipment construction using donations of raw materials from companies such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and SMC Packaging Group. Mercy also has provided staff and supplies to help the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, CoxHealth and Jordan Valley Community Health Center to operate a mobile COVID-19 testing site. And Mercy has participated in patient trials, including one with the Mayo Clinic.

Mercy Hospital Springfield President and Chief Operating Officer Brent Hubbard was among members of the health care community who in September recommended that Springfield City Council expand the local mask mandate. Council did just that less than two weeks later.

Mercy officials say its work during the COVID-19 pandemic is the latest example of its provider status.

“Whether during ‘normal’ times or a pandemic, Mercy Springfield offers the highest-quality care in the region,” Kullmann says.

Officials point to four-star ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“That ranking is based on mortality, safety of care, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and effective use of medical imaging,” Kullmann adds, also noting Mercy Hospital Springfield ranked as a high-performing health care system by U.S. News & World Report.

Mercy in fiscal 2019 had some $53 million in traditional charity care, providing health care at a reduced or eliminated cost for patients who are financially unable to pay.

“In addition, our no-interest payment policy helps families keep their household budgets on track by enabling them to pay their medical bills over time,” Kullmann says.

Mercy Springfield Communities in early 2020 came under the leadership of President Craig McCoy, and in recent years, Mercy has invested millions of dollars into facilities in regional cities such as Bolivar, Branson and Ozark. The health care system’s reach also is worldwide, after executive Dr. David Barbe was installed in October as president of the World Medical Association.

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