Schneider Regional Medical Center: Angela Rennalls-Atkinson, Chief Operating Officer

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There is one government run healthcare system for the Island of St. Thomas. It is Schneider Regional Medical Center, which includes The Roy Lester Schneider Hospital, The Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, and The Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute. The hospital was opened in 1982 and is an acute care, 169-bed facility. The cancer center, open since 2006, provides radiation, oncology treatment and medical oncology. The community health center sees urgent care patients on the island of St. John, the location of the Virgin Islands National Park as well as ambulatory services to the 5,000 residents. Overall, the system serves the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and the approximately 2 million visitors who arrive each year by air and cruise ship.

The Virgin Islands are a part of the United States; so all laws applicable to the mainland are also applicable for Schneider Regional. One of the things on top of the agenda, according to Angela Rennalls-Atkinson, Chief Operating Officer, include insuring that Schneider meets all the standards of Medicaid and Medicare services and other federal agencies. The hospital is joint commission accredited. Some of the areas of specialty include cardiology, hematology, oncology, maternal health services, endocrinology, and pulmonology. “Really, it’s very comprehensive care, including emergency,” says Rennalls-Atkinson.

Schneider is working to build the infrastructure necessary to accommodate physician order entry and complete computerized monitoring of programs. “We use Meditech now for our electronic documentation,” says Rennalls-Atkinson, “but we’re not doing ordering. Certainly our infrastructure and the finances to cover those immediate services is a challenge right now. We do get money from the government for personnel, but we do not get capital funds. So that’s a big project right now, trying to get funds so that we will be able to meet the standards that will apply in 2012.”

Meeting the Needs of the Community

“Our goal is to insure that we can meet the needs of the community,” says Rennalls-Atkinson. “That means we have not only internists, but a number of specialists so that we decrease the need for a person to go off-island for treatment. We employ those physicians when they come.”

Recruiting and maintaining medical personnel has been met with some success. Covering nursing and some of the ancillary areas has been an ongoing challenge. A large portion of Schneider staff is agency staff, brought in from the mainland. Schneider works with the University of the Virgin Islands to provide internships and engage students within the system. “They have the practical experience on the nursing unit so that they can become more familiarized with the clinical environment,” says Rennalls-Atkinson. “These are rising juniors and seniors, so when they graduate from school, they are a lot more accustomed to the hospital environment and community. Since there is only one hospital, we hope that they will come back and decide to work with us.”

The Ever-Present Search for Capital Dollars

The reality of funding at Schneider means that capital expenses are often paid for out of operating funds. There are always cuts in the dollars that can be spent, and one answer has been to focus more on marketing services to make sure people are aware that the hospital exists. “We get a lot of cruise ships passengers and visitors. When someone goes on vacation they do not expect to get sick, but if they do get sick, they want to come to a facility that can provide for their needs. It does require us to spend a lot of our operations money so that we can upgrade our equipment constantly so that we can stay competitive with the rest of the market,” says Rennalls-Atkinson.

-by T. M. Simmons

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