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Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center  

The History of Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System

While the opening of Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center dates back to May 1977, its development began nine years earlier when residents of Mattoon and Charleston, IL decided to work together to develop a regional hospital.

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System has distinguished itself time and time again as a health care provider, employer and community partner while remaining true to its mission over the years: to provide exceptional care for all and create healthy communities. Its leaders and staff have quickly responded to changes in the way health care is delivered so area residents have the benefit of receiving excellent health care close to home.

For a more detailed look at the history of Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, we have the time periods categorized as follows: 1968-1982, 1983-1991, 1992-2000, 2001-2010 and 2011-today.

The Early Years

Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System is known to the residents of East Central Illinois as a high-quality, technologically advanced and personalized health care provider. Since its opening in May of 1977, the Health Center has continually provided needed medical services to residents of a seven-county service region, regardless of their ability to pay for service.

While the accomplishments of this relatively young organization are many, the single most important event in the history of the Health Center occurred many years ago - even before construction began. That was when the communities of Mattoon and Charleston agreed to work together to develop a regional hospital. The planning, development and construction of the Health Center took a total of nine years to complete.

The idea of building a hospital to serve the entire region of East Central Illinois began in 1968. At that time, there were two hospitals operating in Coles County: Mattoon Memorial Hospital(MMH)with 114 beds and Charleston Community Memorial Hospital (CCMH) with 65 beds. The boards of directors of both facilities were facing operational difficulties. While Mattoon Memorial Hospital was an overcrowded, out-of-date facility where patients were actually admitted to the hallways due to a lack of patient rooms, Charleston Community Memorial Hospital suffered from low admissions and too few physicians. In fact, there were only seven doctors on the active medical staff.

In March 1968, Robert Wright, chairman of the Mattoon Memorial Hospital Fact Finding Committee, recommended that the MMH board consider either expanding the existing hospital or building a new facility. Acting on this recommendation, the board hired the Chicago consulting firm of Jensen, Halstead and Rummel to perform a feasibility study. The study was of equal interest to Charleston Community Memorial Hospital, since it, too, faced serious operational difficulties. The scope of the feasibility study was therefore expanded to cover the health care needs of the entire region.

The results of the study were presented to the hospital boards in January 1969. It was estimated that upgrading MMH would cost $6.8 million, while a new hospital of approximately 200 beds could be built for $7 Million. The firm recommended that a new, regional hospital be built between Mattoon and Charleston.

In direct response to that advice, the Charleston-Mattoon Area Medical Planning Council (CMAMPC) was formed. The CMAMPC was comprised of five members from each hospital. On the council were Drs. Leland McNeill and Wilfred Brunswick from the Mattoon Memorial Hospital medical staff and Robert Carlyle, Glen Hesler, and Robert Tweed from the board of Mattoon Memorial Hospital. Council members from the board of Charleston Memorial Hospital were Robert Baker, Robert Carlisle and Donald Mapes. Drs. L.R. Montemayor and G.D. Wright represented the Charleston Community Memorial Hospital medical staff.

The regional hospital project was the first large-scale joint effort of voluntary groups from both of the communities. The merger of the two hospitals would allow the sharing of services, personnel and experience, and thereby eliminate the duplication of services and expenses. Since the State government was attempting to regionalize health care services, the plan was an ideal solution.

In February 1969, Dr. Montemayor from the Charleston Medical Staff was named chairman of the Charleston-Mattoon Area Medical Planning Council. Support from the communities began to emerge, and the Mattoon Memorial Hospital Women¹s Auxiliary donated $1,000 to the Charleston-Mattoon Area Medical Planning Council.

By April, the council had selected 19 land sites along Illinois Route 16 as possible locations for the new hospital, and the Mattoon Journal Gazette published the first editorial supporting the development of a facility located between the two towns.

In August 1969, the need and urgency for building a new hospital to serve the region became even more evident when the Mattoon and Charleston hospitals were surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Mattoon-Charleston region was rated as being the sixth worst area for medical care in the State. Furthermore, a total of 103 patient beds from both facilities were found to be nonconforming to the Illinois Department of Public Health's Fire and Safety Standards.

In October 1969, the Charleston-Mattoon Area Medical Planning Council expanded and appointed additional members. Among the new members were Richard Lumpkin, chairman of the Acute Care Committee; Dr. Emil Gritti and Virgil Judge, who were appointed to the Medical Personnel Recruitment and Education Committee; Dr. Stanley Thiel, who was on the Mental Health Committee; and Dr. Leland McNeill, who was on the Public Information Committee.

1970 proved to be a very busy and successful year for the development of the hospital. In January, Dr. Emil Gritti was selected as president of the Area Medical Planning Council and later that year a corporate charter was granted from the State of Illinois for the Area E-7 board. The board was developed to oversee the development, organization and administration of the new hospital. The initial board of directors for Area E-7 was: George Tankey, Clark Brogan, Dr. Mack W. Hollowell, Harley Holt, Victor Walk, Ralph Glenn and Bob Moore.

One of the first actions of the Area E-7 board was to request $8 million in government grants to be used for constructing the new hospital. Prior to the request, the State had ranked the Mattoon-Charleston region as 47th in line for acquiring building funds. This ranking was based on the earlier plans to expand existing facilities. A reevaluation of the region was conducted based on plans to construct a new, regional facility. Upon completion of the reevaluation, Area E-7 was ranked third in the State for construction funds.

A fund drive for the new facility was kicked off in June 1970. The fund drive for the new hospital had a goal of $2.5 million and was chaired by Melvin Lockard. In July, Charleston Community Memorial Hospital joined Mattoon Memorial Hospital in publicly giving full support for the new hospital. The Illinois Department of Public Health granted a license for the new hospital in October, and in December Richard Lumpkin was elected president of the Charleston-Mattoon Area Medical Planning Council.

That momentum continued into 1971. The board selected the architectural firm of Hewitt and Royer of Kansas City, Missouri to design and plan the new regional facility, and the Area E-7 board decided the new hospital would be named Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center.

Sarah Bush Lincoln quickly became the top priority for hospital construction in the State. The federal government supported the project with a grant of $741,405, and the State pledged $1.6 million. Employees of the Charleston and Mattoon hospitals and the Douglas Living Center pledged to donate $75,000 to the new facility, the Mattoon Memorial Hospital Auxiliary pledged $50,000 and by the end of the fund drive in December, more than 58,000 area residents had contributed in excess of $3 million! In early 1972, the Area E-7 received notification of an additional $900,000 from the federal government¹s Hill-Burton program.

A 75-acre tract of land located east of the Coles County airport and north of Illinois Route 16 was selected as the best location for the Health Center due to its central location and its proximity to Illinois Route 16 and Interstate 57. By the fall of 1972, road construction for the new Health Center had begun.

By 1973, the goal of building a new facility was starting to become a reality. The development phase began to move rapidly. In May, bids for the construction of the Health Center were opened by the Area E-7 board, and contracts for the construction were signed in July. Construction of the new Health Center began in August.

In order for Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center to become a reality, it was necessary for certain legislative changes to occur; Mattoon Memorial Hospital and Charleston Community Memorial Hospital had to agree to cease operations and merge assets and resources once Sarah Bush Lincoln was opened. In April 1973, a bill was passed by the State Legislature allowing the merger and transfer of assets from the Mattoon Memorial Hospital to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. In November, the residents of Mattoon voted on a referendum that allowed for the transfer and requested the discontinuance of the tax that supported MMH. Voters approved the proposal 2,979 to 1,216.

In March 1976, with the construction of the new Health Center approaching the final phases, Charleston Community Memorial Hospital voted to join Mattoon Memorial Hospital in merging into Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. With the consolidation of both area hospitals complete, the residents of East Central Illinois anticipated the opening of the new Health Center.

On Mother¹s Day, May 10, 1977, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center became a reality. An open house was held, and thousands of area citizens waited in lines to see the new facility. After nine years of planning, development and construction, East Central Illinois residents were the owners of the newest and most up-to-date hospital in the area. The results of having a modern facility were evident soon after the opening. The new facility was a key factor in attracting new physicians to the area. As the number of physicians grew, so did the number of specialties represented. Soon Sarah Bush Lincoln had a medical staff that included specialists in neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, otorhinolaryngology and vascular surgery.

The Middle Years

The Health Center's governing board, administrators and staff continually looked for ways to maintain Sarah Bush Lincoln's status as a premier provider of healthcare. Reevaluating and expanding its services to better meet the needs and wishes of residents of East Central Illinois become its modus operandi, even as a young organization.

The following year, a computerized tomography (CT) scanner was installed. That the Health Center had a permanent CAT scanner available to patients around the clock spoke volumes about how technologically advanced the Health Center was. That same year, the Ambulatory Care Center opened in direct response to changes in the healthcare field. The center enabled patients to receive advanced testing procedures and surgical care on an outpatient basis, thereby allowing them to resume their normal activities after brief recoveries. The move away from predominantly inpatient care to ambulatory care represented a sea change in the healthcare industry as a whole, as it actively sought ways to preserve shrinking healthcare dollars and deliver care in a more consumer-focused way.

In February 1989, Sarah Bush Lincoln held grand openings for two new services: a $2.2 million Regional Cancer Center and a newly remodeled Mental Health Unit. While the Cancer Center was equipped with one of the most sophisticated linear accelerators on the market, the Mental Health Unit (now Behavioral Health Services) provided advanced psychiatric care to residents of the region. Both centers allowed for those in need of specialized care to remain in the area without traveling great distances for treatment. In April, a mobile lithotripsy service eliminated patients' kidney stones without incisions and in September magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was added. Both were cutting-edge technological advances-- and tremendous assets to the community.

The Health System introduced a new logo in 1990. It consisted of four upward-facing crosses that appear to be rising. While the complete crosses represent progress and growth, the two unfinished crosses represent a Health Center that is evolving and developing.

As part of its continuing effort to reach out to area residents, the Health System began publishing Health Styles. Written and designed by the Public Relations staff, the magazine was designed to provide general information about health-related matters to residents of Coles and surrounding counties. The magazine is now sent to 68,000 households in the region.

Sarah Bush Lincoln continued its outreach efforts by offering specialized services to area employers for the benefit of their staffs. The Occupational Health Program, an injury-prevention and wellness service, offers everything from pre-placement physicals to treatment of work-related injuries and illnesses. The Employee Assistance Program now part of Behavioral Health Services, provides comprehensive, confidential and professional assistance for individual, family or work problems that could adversely affect the employee, his or her family, or his job performance. Both outreach programs have experienced strong growth over the years.

Physician recruitment began in earnest in 1991 as well. In an effort to create greater access to healthcare, the Health System opened clinics over the next several years in Casey, Neoga, Toledo, Sullivan, Arthur, Arcola, Charleston and Mattoon. The Health System worked hard to recruit not only family practice and internal medicine physicians, but also specialists in a wide variety of areas. The addition of surgeons, otolaryngologists, gastroenterologists, psychiatrists, obstetrician/gynecologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine physicians, pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons helped local residents find healthcare close to home. These efforts have earned the Health System a provider-patient ratio well above that of most rural health centers and a physician-turnover rate of seven percent versus the national average of 19 percent for rural hospitals.

In July of that year, the Health Center celebrated the opening of the Skilled Nursing Unit, a unit that provides an interim level of care to patients either transitioning home or into long-term care living facilities.

This approach to patient care, like so much of what the Health Center has done over the years, was innovative not just for the geographical region, but for healthcare in general.

The Next Big Wave

SBLHC celebrated its 15th birthday in May 1992. This was a pivotal point in the history of Sarah Bush Lincoln, for as the staff, physicians and board of directors reflected on the previous 15 years, they also planned for the next 15 years.

To prepare for the future and ensure the stability of healthcare in East Central Illinois, Health System leaders began planning a $25.5 million expansion and renovation project. The Master Facility Plan included the addition of a four-story Medical Office Pavilion to provide office space for

15 specialists, a spacious main lobby, and expanded areas for growing programs, like Cardiac Rehabilitation, the Employee Assistance Program, Outpatient Counseling, Health Management Services, and a fixed-base MRI unit.

Other areas slated for expansion included Ambulatory Care, the Regional Cancer Center, the Emergency Department, Critical Care Unit, nursing units and ancillary areas. Plans included construction of the Lumpkin Family Center for Health Education to provide much needed meeting space and state-of-the-art presentation equipment. In all, construction would add 115,000 square feet and renovate 50,000 square feet.

On July 21, 1992, the Health Center held a ground-breaking ceremony to kick off the Master Facility Plan. The project was financed through the sale of tax-exempt revenue bonds and private donations. The ceremonial ground breaking was attended by more than 2,500 area residents and marked the beginning of a capital campaign by the Health Foundation to raise $2.25 million toward the expansion and renovation program. The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System family of staff and associates generously pledged almost half of the goal. Construction of the steel structure for the Medical Office Pavilion began in March 1993, and by June 1994 the first phase of construction was complete. (The final phase of the Master Facility Plan opened in 1995.)

As the Health Center began its expansion, the Health System continued its outreach to residents of outlying areas by opening a 3,280-square-foot rural health facility in Arthur in 1993. In addition to the prevention and treatment services you would expect to find in a fully staffed medical clinic, the Arthur Clinic housed educational facilities, physical therapy and X-ray services.

The Health System responded to a call from Moultrie County leaders to establish a clinic in Sullivan by opening a 5,760-square-foot facility in Sullivan in August 1995. The facility offered physical therapy facilities, an education/conference room, X-ray facilities and room to expand services as needed. Both clinics were staffed by a full-time family physician and a full-time physician assistant.

After more than three years of planning and research, the Health System initiated its own health management organization: Community Health Plan of Sarah Bush Lincoln. The new company began marketing to large, local businesses in May of 1995 and by May of 1998 it was being offered to the State of Illinois employees, local government employees and participants in the Teacher¹s Retirement Insurance Plan. Changes in the insurance market, however, compelled Community Health Plan of Sarah Bush Lincoln to close its doors in 2000.

The 1996, the Neoga Clinic was renovated, and the Family Medical Center opened its doors after combining the physicians and staffs of the Coles Clinic and Family Practice Center and providing space for the relocation of the Mattoon Physical Therapy and Industrial Rehabilitation Center.

By this point in time, Health System leadership and staff were looking beyond solutions built of bricks and mortar for unconventional ways to positively impact the community. Working with area Rotary clubs, General Electric, Agilent Technologies, and Cardiologist Shailesh Zaveri, M.D., Sarah Bush Lincoln provided diagnostic echocardiograms to area high school athletes through the Rotary High School Athletic Heart Scan program, so athletes could participate in competitive sports with every reassurance that their hearts were up to the challenge. Since testing began in 1996, more than 2,500 screens on students from 20 area high schools have been performed. Mild abnormalities have been identified in 210 athletes and nine serious problems have been diagnosed.

In June 1996, Sarah Bush Lincoln established Home Health Services to better meet the needs of patients still in need of healthcare services, yet well enough to return home. In the spring of 1998, Sarah Bush Lincoln had the opportunity to acquire the assets of Lincolnland Visiting Nurses Association Inc. After a lengthy feasibility study, the board of directors approved the purchase, and Lincolnland Home Care of Sarah Bush Lincoln was born. This move expanded the Health System service area by adding nine counties.

Lincolnland Home Care serves the region from offices located in Mattoon, Sullivan, Paris, Casey and Effingham. Lincolnland Home Care, which includes Lincolnland Home Health and Lincolnland Hospice services, reaches 15 counties and 19 counties respectively, providing local and area residents with high quality, seamless care.

I Sing the Body Electric, a community-based primary prevention program, was introduced to the community in 1997. The program challenges adolescents to address behaviorally related health risk factors, including substance abuse, drinking and driving, teen sexuality, suicide and unhealthy body images.

Through experiential learning, it empowers young people to creatively and positively express their concern for each other and for their communities through arts-based prevention projects. Over the years, students have shared their messages and artwork with nearly 42,000 of their peers and adults throughout the region. I Sing the Body Electric is possible through the collaboration of Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System, Eastern Illinois University, Lake Land Community College, Paris Community Hospital, The Regional Office of Education and WEIU-TV.

The late 1990s ushered in more renovations for the Health Center, starting in 1997 with the opening of the first phase of the new Adult Care Unit and ending in 2000 with the opening of the Outpatient Surgery Center. These renovations responded to changes in the way health care was beginning to be delivered by shifting the treatment approach to more outpatient and patient-centered care from that which was being delivered in more traditional hospital settings.

Solid physician recruitment during the 1990s complimented the physical changes that were taking place across the Health System. Both primary care physicians and specialists joined the medical staff.

In 1997 the Health System initiated a long-range, information systems strategic plan. Key components of the plan included: acquiring numerous upgraded information systems, including a physician management system; implementing a staffing plan for the Information Systems Department; installing a network infrastructure; and upgrading all personal computers and single-use terminals.

In 1999, the Health Center introduced to the community a tremendous new program, Women & Children FIRST, designed to address issues of importance to women and children. The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation led a $1.9 million fund-raising campaign to support the initiative, and organizations from across the seven-county service area partnered with the Health Center to make the program a reality.

The Women & Children FIRST flagship initiative was the construction of the Women & Children's Center, a project that began in 1999 and that was fully operational in 2000. It features nine suites designed to make the birthing experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Called LDRP Suites, the Center's rooms allow mothers and their partners to experience labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum recovery in one room-- and with many of the comforts of home right at their fingertips. The Women¹s and Children¹s Center is also home to Second Nature, store that offers a wide assortment of breastfeeding supplies and other products of interest to new mothers.

As part of the Women & Children FIRST initiative, SBLHC joined the Illinois Breast & Cervical Cancer Program and began offering free clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, Pap tests and mammograms to women with limited incomes between the ages of 35 and 64. SBLHC is the lead agency of the East Central Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program and receives funding for the program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The program serves women in a nine-county area. Women & Children FIRST initiatives really got off the ground in 2000 with the introduction of the Oh, Baby! prenatal and postnatal education program.

Oh Baby! familiarizes expectant parents with the labor-delivery-recovery-postpartum (LDRP) suites in the Women and Children's Center, offers a Birth Update prenatal review class and the ever popular Big Brother, Big Sister Pajama Party for future big brothers and sisters. Oh, Baby! also provides participants with information on labor medications, delivery, cesarean birth, newborn appearances and procedures, infant and car seat safety, and more. It was initially sponsored by SBLHC and Carle Clinic--Mattoon and Charleston.

The Women & Children FIRST Mobile Mammography unit began providing mammograms, osteoporosis scans, cholesterol tests, and blood pressure and cardiac risk assessments that year as well. The program was designed to eliminate one of the most common reasons for women not having regular mammograms: access. The mobile mammography unit travels to area county health departments, participating banks and Sarah Bush Lincoln medical clinics to provide women living in those communities with access to mammograms. It serves about 2,000 women each year.

Sponsoring organizations include SBLHC; BankCheck, a collaborative effort between nine area banks; the Illinois Department of Public Health, Office of Women¹s Health; the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine rural Health Initiatives Partnership Program; and the Susan B. Komen Foundation.

The Women and Children Dental Program has improved access to dental care for mothers and children who use the WIC (Women Infant Children) program, Medicaid and KidCare. The program is possible through the support of SBLHC, the Lake Land College Dental Hygiene Program, Regional Office of Education, the Tri-County Dental Clinic and 18 area dentists who volunteer their time.  Free dental clinics are scheduled throughout the year. Since its inception, 10,000 people have been screened and 1,000 people have received multiple treatments.

The Community Online Resource Directory (CORD) is a growing directory of diverse area agencies and a detailed explanation of the programs they provide, including physical, mental, financial, legal and information services. CORD serves people in Coles, Clark, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Jasper, Moultrie and Shelby counties. Its database consists of 175 agencies representing 600 programs. Sarah Bush Lincoln Women & Children FIRST partnered with the Illinois State Library and Consolidated Communications to initiate and sustain CORD.

Prescription Assistance is available to patients who "fall through the cracks" of governmental programs, enabling people to get the medication they need to improve and sustain their health. SBLHC partnered with Catholic Charities to provide computers, software and support so hundreds of area residents who qualify for the free MedAssist prescription assistance program can receive their medications.

Adult Day Services of Sarah Bush Lincoln is a not-for-profit service designed to enhance the quality of life for people ages 18 and older who may be frail, alone, disabled or recovering from illness. The program offers guests days filled with crafts, guest speakers, music, exercise, and park outings-- plus comfortable recliners for those who wish to rest during the day! The service is used by families needing either respite care or long-term day care.

Other accomplishments of the year were the coordination of specialty physician care to area communities, such as Paris, Effingham, and Crawford County by Sarah Bush Lincoln System Practices and the installation of an advanced MRI unit which offered patients higher quality scans and increased comfort.

The year 2000 ended on a high note with the opening of the Outpatient Surgery Center in November. Located at the Visitor¹s entrance to the Health Center, the Outpatient Surgery Center offers one location for pre-operative tests and registration. The design of the center focuses on convenience, a progressive approach to patient care and affordability.

One of the driving forces in building the center was to keep costs down for patients. By only performing prescheduled surgeries, the staff keeps things running smoothly so patients and their families aren¹t inconvenienced by time delays. Being able to further streamline its processes has been an added benefit to staff.

Progress in the New Millennium

The beginning of the new millennium was an exciting time for people the world over, Health System staff and associates included! While 2001 itself was an outwardly quiet year for SBLHS (highlights were the renovation of the Casey Clinic and the availability of athletic training services through the Orthopedics Department), there was a tremendous amount of work happening behind the scenes.

Most notable was the unveiling of a construction plan in 2002 to add an $8.4 million addition to the Health Center. The three-story, 40,000-square-foot structure was designed to allow for the creation and expansion of patient care services. Named Medical Office Pavilion II, the complex was slated to open in 2004.

2002 also saw the introduction of women's health services at the Casey and Arthur clinics to create greater access to care, and the transformation of the Health System¹s website into a truly interactive site. In addition to providing people with reliable health information, the site offers users the ability to register for classes and programs, apply for jobs, and e-mail inpatients. Individuals can use it to store personal health profiles as well, thereby enabling them to keep accurate records of their health histories.

Windows to Heaven was also introduced. A memorial program of Lincolnland Hospice, it gives people a special place to memorialize a child who has died. Funds raised by the program support bereavement services, newborn screenings, gifts for siblings, memory boxes and footprint pins. The Windows to Heaven support group, a natural outgrowth of the memorial program, meets monthly to help participants grieve and remember their loved ones.

In 2003, Sarah Bush Lincoln continued to reach out to the community-at-large through collaborative programs, customer-focused retail efforts and important patient safety measures.

Community Trendbending began that year and continues to ask participating communities to examine negative trends and develop long-term systemic solutions to some of their greatest problems to better guide their growth.

Edgar County residents are fighting methamphetamine abuse; Coles County is waging a war against obesity through a program called Reshaping Coles; and the greater Sullivan area is creating tourism in and around Lake Shelbyville. The results of these initiatives have inspired Clark County residents to begin a trendbending program to develop an assisted living center.

This data-driven process to change negative trends into positive trends is sponsored by Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Eastern Illinois University, Lake Land College, the Regional Office of Education and the East Central Illinois Development Corporation.

Sarah Bush Lincoln brought together a variety of programs and services that focus on homecare when it opened retail and office space at the Cross County Mall in Mattoon. Patients and family members now enjoy the convenience of having in a central location: Adult Day Services, Emergency Medical Services, In Home Medical (a durable medical equipment store that opened in 2003 in Mattoon and Effingham), Lifeline personal emergency response system, Lincolnland Home Care, Lincolnland Hospice, and Sarah¹s Homemakers "personal assistants."

Also in 2003, SBLHS underwent a system-wide computer upgrade from that which was installed in 1997 to Meditech, a sophisticated system that allows physicians and other care providers real-time access to their patients' medical records. It enables them to view laboratory reports and vital signs, as well as to monitor their patients' progress directly from their offices.

Since the system is integrated throughout the organization, patients register for services only once and simply verify their information when moving among service areas.

More importantly, Meditech helps to eliminate errors by allowing providers to input medical orders directly into their patients' electronic charts, thereby reducing the chance that orders will be poorly communicated among staff. The system warns providers of allergies, drug interactions and dose miscalculations, and bar coding enhances patient safety by making sure the correct medication and dose are given to the appropriate patient. It is by far one of the most important safety processes implemented to date.

Meditech also checks to see if tests are medically necessary so patients receive the best possible reimbursement. Since patients' bills are more detailed, insurance companies can process claim.

In 2004, nursing documentation went electronic as well, thereby reducing not only the amount of paper in patients' medical charts but also the chance of medical errors. Similarly, this change was significant since, at the time, only about 5 percent of all hospitals were using online records to manage medication administration.

The Diagnostic Imaging (Radiology) Department expanded its computer capabilities with the installation of a system that manages and stores digital images. In short, the Health Center became "filmless." With the "picture archiving communication system," patients benefit from a fast, efficient, and secure flow of images through the Health Center, clinics and offices that comprise the Health System. Through the ingenuity of a specific and secure web browser, physicians can access digital images within seconds of a scan's completion from any location that has an Internet connection. This allows physicians in multiple locations to view scans simultaneously and together discuss diagnoses and treatment plans.

Radiology services were upgraded at the SBL Casey Clinic as well. This important improvement, made possible through the Nunamaker Trust, helps Casey-area residents by providing excellent equipment and services in Casey and eliminating the need for them to travel for X-rays.

In an effort to combat coronary artery disease, the Diagnostic Imaging Department began offering individuals a simple and affordable test called CT Scoring to check the coronary arteries and cardiovascular system for calcium buildup. When caught early enough, the progression of the disease can be not only stopped but reversed through diet, exercise and, in some cases, medication. 

Further, the Heart to Heart program was developed to address the overall cardiovascular health of area residents. While it began as a women's health initiative, it soon expanded to include men. It works by increasing people's awareness of their health by providing them with seven cardiac risk screens, educational sessions, and consultations with nurses, exercise physiologists, and dietitians. More than 700 people have participated in Heart to Heart, a clear demonstration that the Health Center's wellness efforts truly impact the lives of area residents.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) once represented one of the Heath Center's largest percentages of readmissions. Since initiating a CHF disease management program in 2001, readmission rates have substantially decreased from 21 percent to as low as 4 percent in 2004. This was achieved through education and application of nationally accepted treatment protocols, improved patient education and follow-up care.

A new operating room was added to the Outpatient Surgery Center in 2004, bringing the number of dedicated outpatient surgery rooms to four. The addition accommodates the needs of area residents who opt for elective surgeries.

High-tech beds and new room furniture enhanced the comfort of patients in both the Adult Care Unit and Skilled Nursing Unit. The beds feature pressure-reduction mattresses, alarms for improved patient safety, improved controls and a scale built into each one.

The Women and Children's Center evolved into the most progressive obstetric and pediatric department in the service region thanks to state-of-the-art equipment and excellent nursing care. Among its accomplishments was a change in philosophy. Nurses and doctors began encouraging women to get out of bed to work their labors using a variety of safe birthing techniques. "Active birthing" decreased the average time patients spent laboring by 77.2 minutes per patient, and shorter labors meant happier mothers and babies.

Social workers from Lincolnland Hospice, school librarians and school counselors came together to create Good Grief, a program that trained area school teachers, counselors and librarians in four area school districts to help children cope with grief in a positive way. Health Center employees made "memory bags" for students of all ages, and schools received books and literature on grieving as part of the program.

That same year, the Neal Nursing Institute was developed as the first step toward becoming a magnet hospital - one that attracts the best nurses because of its practices. The Institute centers on a professional nursing model that works to improve patient outcomes through nursing research. The end result is that the nursing staff is extremely well-equipped with the latest knowledge and best practices.

The Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation received its single largest gift ever: the Edward F. Ritter Jr. MD Trust. Given by the late Edward F. Ritter of Mattoon and named in memory of his son who was lost at sea during World War II, the trust of more than $2 million will be used to promote healthy lifestyles.

Part of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation, WomenConnected is a women's philanthropic group that, in its first year, provided more than $21,000 in support to programs at the Health Center. The group has pledged money to support the enhancement or expansion of several Sarah Bush Lincoln programs, including the Neal Nursing Institute, Heart-to-Heart Conference II, mobile mammography, and diabetes prevention and osteoporosis screenings.

After 18 months of steady progress, the Medical Office Pavilion II opened in October 2004 to the cheers of staff and patients. The facility houses an expanded cardiovascular program, the Outpatient Physical and Occupational Therapy departments, the Pain Management Center, the Gastroenterology and Special Procedures Suite and countless pieces of state-of-the-art equipment.

On the first floor are a comprehensive Orthopedic and Sports Medicine area; space for stress testing and expanded cardiology physician services; and an expanded Monitored Exercise Testing Service to allow more patients to participate in cardiac rehab classes in an educational and friendly environment. The second floor is home to the Center for Interventional Pain and the Gastroenterology and Special Procedures Suite. The third floor houses administrative offices, which were previously spread throughout the Health Center and in the Professional Plaza.

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab also opened in the fall. This $2 million state-of-the-art lab enables patients to have diagnostic cardiac catheterizations performed locally, thereby making the procedure more convenient for them and their families.

2005 saw the installation of new technologies and the expansion of existing community benefit initiatives.

Of tremendous importance was the continuing implementation of the Meditech computer system that allows SBLHS providers to input medical orders directly into their patients' electronic charts to improve patient safety.

The Health Center also installed a 64-slice volume CT scanner and began offering digital mammography to its patients. The volume CT scanner produces images much faster than conventional CT scanners (in less than 10 seconds for the entire body), allows radiation doses and rotation speeds to be customized for each patient and produces better images of small structures. Digital mammography provides greater image clarity and decreases the duration of mammograms. Images are stored for easy and quick access by physicians.

The Heart to Heart cardiac wellness program and the Regional Behavioral Health Network, a collaborative program that responds to more than 5,800 crisis inquiries annually, continued to grow. In addition, Step in Right Direction-a wellness program aimed at reducing the incidence of Type II diabetes-- began. 

While Sarah Bush Lincoln has been committed from the beginning to providing medical care to area residents regardless of their ability to pay for service, the Health System implemented a charity care policy in 2005 that significantly expanded the availability of financial assistance and provided more than $2 million (costs) in charity care to more than 4,200 accounts.

Being good stewards of the community extended beyond the use of dollars to the protection of the environment. Through collaboration and creativity, SBLHS implemented both a recycling and an energy conservation program that was recognized as one of the best in the State. It received the 2005 Governor's Pollution Prevention Award. Only four awards were presented to first-time winners and 11 were presented for continuous improvement.

In a single year, the Health System saved $300,000 through its efforts. It replaced a 1,500-gallon water-heating system with one that holds only 45 gallons; swapped insulation on pipes and duct work for thermal blankets; and traded inefficient lighting units with more efficient lighting systems. 140,400 pounds of cardboard were recycled; 15,000 pounds of paper; 6,800 pounds of plastic; and 1,200 pounds of PET plastic. Light bulbs, toner cartridges, batteries, construction materials, and X-ray film are also among the items routinely recycled at Sarah Bush Lincoln. Even food! Once composted, food waste is used to feed the gardens and lawn.

The Health Center was honored with another prestigious award in 2005: The Lincoln Silver Award for Progress Towards Excellence. It was presented by The Lincoln Foundation For Performance Excellence, an organization that seeks to help Illinois organizations continuously improve their performance by encouraging, developing and highlighting excellence. It honored SBLHC "for demonstrating sound and notable continuous improvement processes."

Also in 2005, Solucient named Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center as one of the country's best hospitals in its "100 Top Hospitals®: Benchmarks for Success" program. The report identifies industry benchmarks and recognizes hospitals that demonstrate superior clinical, operational, and financial performance in overall service. Solucient is the leading source of healthcare business intelligence and maintains the nation's largest healthcare database. The award speaks volumes about the level of care and attention Sarah Bush Lincoln provides to residents of East Central Illinois.

As you might expect of a Top 100 Hospital, Sarah Bush Lincoln values its employees, associates, and volunteers. Not only is it Coles County's third largest employer, but Sarah Bush Lincoln maintains excellent provider-patient ratios and low turnover rates for physicians (7 percent versus the national average at rural hospitals of 19 percent) and staff (11.9 percent versus the national average of 17 percent).

Sarah Bush Lincoln enhances economic development through employment, as it adds services and programs to meet community members' health needs.  Over the last several years, it has added nearly 100 new positions throughout the organization, bringing total employment to more than 1,400 people and the annual payroll to nearly $80 million.

In 2006, patient safety continued to be a top priority for Sarah Bush Lincoln. To that end, it adopted the National Patient Safety Goals as determined by The Joint Commission, the nation's predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. The program works to improve 1.) the accuracy of patient identification, 2.) the effectiveness of communication among caregivers and 3.) the safety of medication usage.

Also that year, the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center welcomed the addition of a new $2.2 million linear accelerator, a sophisticated piece of equipment used to destroy cancer cells with high-energy X-rays. The iX Accelerator targets cancer cells with extreme precision, thereby sparing healthy tissue.

The Health System's many advancements in electronic technology were recognized by Health Forum (an American Hospital Association Company) in 2006 when it named Sarah Bush Lincoln as one of the 25 "Most Wired Small and Rural Hospitals." The award focuses on how hospitals use information technologies in quality and customer service, public health and safety, and business processes and workforce issues.

And yet another award was given to Sarah Bush Lincoln in 2006: the Governor's PATH Award (People Are Today's Heroes). It recognizes Sarah Bush Lincoln's commitment and dedication to improving the health and wellness of women through its Heart Smart for Women (heart health education and exercise) program.

As Sarah Bush Lincoln reaches out into the community to provide more expansive services, its market share continues to grow. SBLHC enjoys a market share of 44.3 percent in the seven-county service area, and an inpatient market share for Coles County of 77 percent. Numbers like these mean that more people are choosing Sarah Bush Lincoln and its providers to meet their healthcare needs, and their choice is contributing both to the strength of the hospital and to the community.

In 2007, Sarah Bush Lincoln began phasing in a new system at its extended campus clinics that allows healthcare providers to have access to a patient's medical records no matter where they are treated in the SBL network. Ambulatory electronic medical records (AEMRs) will eventually be implemented across the Health System.

With AEMR, healthcare providers use a wireless portable notepad to enter notes directly into an electronic record. Test results, prescriptions, and other information can be added electronically as needed. The charts are legible and easy to read, along with the prescriptions written by the doctor. This helps eliminate errors associated with misread prescriptions, missed allergies or incomplete documentation. Prescriptions can even be automatically faxed to a pharmacy, if desired.

This ground-breaking venture, partially funded through a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), was so cutting edge at the time that less than 5 percent of hospitals in the nation had implemented an ambulatory electronic medical record connected to its doctor offices.

In 2009, Sarah Bush Lincoln was recognized for being in the top one percent of hospitals in the United States for its use of electronic medical records (EMRs). The honor came following an evaluation by the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS), an organization that provides leadership on the use of healthcare information technology.

In addition, the Health System was named for a second time to the nation's Most Wired Small and Rural Hospitals as a result of a 2009 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study released by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

Revising its Mission, Vision and Values in 2007, Sarah Bush Lincoln embarked on a journey entitled "Excellence a Way of Life" to enhance care. Designed to move SBL from being a very good organization to being a great one, the initiative has helped improve the level of service and patient experience scores have continued to rise.

The Health Center's success is measured through HCAHPS, an acronym that stands for Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey. The data on this survey is collected from patients and represents their perceptions of the hospital inpatient experience. The information is displayed as a comparison between Sarah Bush Lincoln and state and national averages. You can go directly to www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov and examine the data for yourself. SBL's goal is be transparent with this information and display the data on our website in a way that makes sense to most consumers.

In April 2008, In Home Medical of Sarah Bush Lincoln relocated to a brand new building in Effingham. A durable medical equipment company, In Home Medical rents and sells medical equipment that helps people maintain their independence in the comfort of their own homes. In addition, the company carries a full line of uniforms, shoes and other medical supplies. In Home Medical also expanded by relocating to a newly constructed building at 300 Coles Center in Mattoon in November 2010.

Additionally, in 2008 Sarah Bush Lincoln built a new clinic in Arcola to better serve the primary care needs of area residents. The following year, Sarah Bush Lincoln opened a newly constructed clinic in Effingham to consolidate audiology and laboratory services, Lincolnland Hospice, a Sleep Disorders Center and a physician office.

In 2009, the Health Center grew several initiatives to improve the health of area children. They were designed to decrease the incidence of obesity and risky behaviors, while increasing children’s fitness and improving their dental health.

By August 2010, Sarah Bush Lincoln had opened a newly constructed medical office building, Prairie Pavilion I, to better accommodate some of its busiest medical practices. The pavilion features a newly created walk-in healthcare clinic to address the immediate medical needs of patients.

Diagnostic imaging services were expanded into Newton in 2010 as well.

2011 - Today

In 2011, Sarah Bush Lincoln introduced a hospitalist program to enhance inpatient care by providing hospital-based physicians throughout the day to talk with patients and their family members, follow-up on test results, answer nurses' questions and respond quickly to issues that arise.

Prairie Pavilion II, a second medical office building, opened in June, and Sarah Bush Lincoln embarked on a three-year and $48 million Master Facility Plan to renovate and expand the Emergency Room, the surgical suites, the laboratory and patient rooms. A successful community campaign helped to fund the project.

In July 2011, Gary Barnett retired after 13 years of successful service as the president and chief executive officer.

Illinois Performance Excellence named Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System a recipient of the 2011 Gold Award for “Achievement of Excellence” for demonstrating sound and notable continuous improvement principles. The ILPEx Gold Award is the highest award an organization can receive in the State of Illinois recognizing organizational performance excellence. Sarah Bush Lincoln earned the Silver Award in 2005 and 2008.

Sarah Bush Lincoln contracted with new 11 providers and it partnered with Prairie Heart Institute of Illinois to give local residents greater access to an extensive network of cardiologists throughout Central and Southern Illinois.

Fiscal Year 2012 marked the beginning of Timothy A. Ols’ term as president and chief executive officer and the fifth year that Sarah Bush Lincoln was named to Hospital & Health Networks’ list of “HealthCare’s Most Wired” hospitals for its superior use of electronic medical records and system connectivity.

Significant highlights of 2013 came in two categories: construction and commendations. The first phase of the expansion and renovation plan that was introduced in 2011 came to fruition with the opening of private rooms, a new laboratory, surgery reception and admission area. The Heart Center, the Center for Interventional Pain, and a physician’s medical practice were expanded, renovated and relocated, and SBLHC constructed an electrical services building to upgrade its electrical supply.

Beyond the main campus, SBLHC remodeled Family Medical Center in Mattoon to create four suites of offices and to relocate the facility’s laboratory and diagnostic services. Walk-In healthcare clinics were built in Mattoon and Charleston to conveniently address the needs of area residents.

Sarah Bush Lincoln was again named to Hospital & Health Networks’ list of “HealthCare’s Most Wired” hospitalist achieved some of the highest patient engagement scores in its history. Through random patient surveys, the inpatient-nursing unit ranked at the 90th percentile nationwide; patient satisfaction with the food ranked at the 98th percentile; and employee satisfaction ranked at the 96th percentile nationally.

Thirty-one new doctors and mid-level providers joined the medical staff in 2013.

Throughout FY14, Sarah Bush Lincoln was in the midst of construction, as progress continued on its $48 million Master Facility Plan. Private patient rooms, the Laboratory, Gift Shop and Diagnostic Imaging Department opened, and sections of the Emergency Room and surgical suites were completed. The Charleston Walk-In Clinic opened, as did the Center for Health Living, a facility developed to help people with chronic health concerns learn to improve their lifestyles through exercise and diet. The Master Facility Plan was completed the following year.

Throughout it all, SBL saved more than $1.2 million over two years, using LEAN Performance Excellence tools.

Sarah Bush Lincoln once again received several national awards during FY14. For the seventh consecutive year, Hospitals & Health Networks named SBLHC among “HealthCare’s Most Wired” hospitals, after assessing how it used information technology to address and enhance patient safety, quality of care, public health, administrative processes and workforce decisions.

SBLHC received HealthStream’s award for “Overall Employee Satisfaction & Engagement” for large organizations, marking the second time SBL was recognized for this accomplishment; employee engagement propelled Sarah Bush Lincoln to the 96th percentile nationally. Healthcare IT News named Sarah Bush Lincoln third in a list of the “10 Best Medium Hospital IT Departments, 2013,” and iVantage Health Analytics placed SBLHC in the top 15 percent of hospitals across the nation as a “2014 HEALTHSTRONGTM Hospital” for its performance across a broad set of measurements.

Johns Hopkins Medicine recognized Sarah Bush Lincoln as a top performer in its “Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality” assessment, noting Sarah Bush Lincoln’s excellence in nurse communication, doctor communication, staff responsiveness, and communication about medications and discharge.

The Health System continued to grow in 2015, most notably by breaking ground for the construction of a new Regional Cancer Center. The $15.4 million freestanding center will replace the 24-year-old facility, be nearly triple the size and span 21,000 square feet. It will feature 17 individual chemotherapy bays and a healing garden. Special features include a new linear accelerator and an underground pneumatic tube system for quickly transporting specimens and critical supplies between the cancer center and the hospital.

Construction of a new Toledo Clinic began and plans for new clinics in Casey and Tuscola were announced.

Sarah Bush Lincoln strengthened its commitment to excellence in patient care and safety with two new initiates. SBLHC partnered with Advanced ICU to bring specially trained critical care physicians called intensivists into the Critical Care Unit via telemedicine, and leaders created Team Up for Safety-- tools and techniques to eliminate preventable harm to patients and employees.

SBLHC committed to a $41 million investment in technology by changing its system-wide information technology system from a single operating system (Meditech) to three separate but greatly enhanced systems.

Twenty-eight new physicians or mid-level providers signed contracts to begin work in 2015 and 2016.

The Sarah Bush Lincoln IT Department was again deemed a Best Place to Work by Healthcare IT News, and employees rated Sarah Bush Lincoln in the 92nd percentile nationally for employee satisfaction, using comparative data from Health Stream, a third-party independent vendor.

We look with excitement to the years ahead.