Gratitude, milestones, patient services, capital investment and 2020 goals were some of the topics addressed by Karen Surkala, Westfield Memorial Hospital President, about the Westfield Memorial Hospital (WMH) in Westfield during the Feb. 18 Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville session. Rotarians gathered at The Parkview in Westfield to hear Surkala discuss the 2019 year in review for WMH, which is the only Allegheny Health Network (AHN) hospital outside of Pennsylvania. Her program was sponsored by John Hamels, Ph.D., Rotary Club President and WMH Board Chairman.
The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club helped to found this hospital in 1942, and it has been a longtime supporter of it. Throughout recent years, at least 14 club members have served on the Boards of WMH or WMH Foundation. This Rotary club recently donated two sets of breast self-examination (BSE) models and 1,000 BSE shower cards to WMH to aid its patients with early detection of breast cancer. The purchase of the items was made possible through a Rotary District 7090 grant, which the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club was awarded. Surkala said, “WMH is very grateful to this Rotary club for helping to secure the grant to purchase these BSE items. These models and shower cards will go a long way to help educate our patients and in the fight against breast cancer.” Having brought some of the items with her, Rotarians who were present were able to see them up close and learn how they would be used with patients.
Surkala has over 30 years of health care field experience. She most recently served as CEO of Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute care facility in Erie, and before that she spent three years as senior director, strategic agenda management, at Cleveland Clinic.
From 2012 to 2015, she was a senior vice president at Saint Vincent Hospital, and was an integral member of the C-suite team responsible for various aspects of the hospital’s strategic, operational and business development performance. Also, Surkala served as vice president and administrator at WMH from 2007 to 2011, helping to lead the hospital through a multi-year restructuring process.
Surkala received her Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University and a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Gannon University. Her various volunteer affiliations include former board memberships with the Union City Community Foundation and the Westfield Development Corporation. Wherever she has worked throughout her career, Surkala has fostered a people-first, patient-centered culture, creating healthier communities along the way.
“My focus is to help grow WMH with its patient care,” Surkala said. She continued, “One of our 2019 milestones is that our inpatient admissions exceeded our ten-year average. WMH averages about ten inpatients per month. Also, we added OB/GYN services, though we will never deliver babies at WMH. We successfully completed our Dept. of Health recertification. All of our emergency department staff members are now physicians. No other Chautauqua County hospital can say that.”
Surkala noted WMH’s “stabilized radiology coverage in that a radiologist is with us for two weeks of each month.” Another milestone she discussed was establishing AHN as a NYS physician provider. “Through the development of this corporate partnership, WMH is able to have specialists from Pittsburgh on site or available through telemedicine. This is really a big deal with improving our patient care.”
With its expansion of patient services, WMH provides the following: OB/GYN clinic; orthopedic clinic; lung screening program; fluoroscopy and mammography services; certified lymphedema physical therapy; and lab auto verification process. Surkala stated, “Ask your physician if you can have your routine procedures done at WMH.”
About the corporate partnership with AHN, Surkala said, “AHN provides WMH with tremendous resources and significant capital investment. AHN provided our facility with new signage, patient care equipment, and capital and human resources. We are able to achieve so much more thanks to AHN infusing capital to our community.” AHN also invested $250,000 to renovate the AHN/WMH Clinic on the Chautauqua Institution grounds.
Patient care equipment provided by AHN includes these items: a 64 slice CT scanner/power injector to improve lung screening; blood coagulation analyzer; blood bank system upgrade; ophthalmological slit lamp/eye tonometer; exam tables; seven stretchers; and five wheelchairs.
AHN’s capital investment in WMH facilities and infrastructure included these: laboratory reagent refrigerator; imaging department; operating room steam sterilizer; hydroculator; backup generator; suction/vacuum system; and replaced chiller/compressor.
Surkala noted that visits to the WMH emergency department increased by 4% in 2019. She said that the triage times of its emergency department nurses and physicians decreased as the volume of patients increased. Surkala highlighted, “The national standard average for triage time is 30 minutes. The triage time at WMH, even during our highest volume of patients in the summer months, was 18 minutes. Our physician triage time is the best in Chautauqua County, as well as in all of the AHN area.”
WMH goals for 2020 were reviewed. Surkala stated, “On the horizon we will expand our gynecology and orthopedic surgical services and offer telehealth services. We will provide cardiac rehabilitation phases three and four, as well as peripheral artery disease rehabilitation services. Rest assured that 2020 will be a great year for WMH.”
The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club congratulates Karen Surkala and all of the WMH staff for its 2019 advancements and for improving the quality of its patient care services. It recognizes them for their dedicated and invaluable service to the community and region.