SNOW HILL – Atlantic General Hospital officials shared accomplishments from the past year with county leaders as they presented the facility’s annual grant request.
Representatives of Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) met with the Worcester County Commissioners last week to present the hospital’s annual grant request. They reviewed the high points and the challenges of the past year at the Berlin facility.
“We appreciate the support from our county and our community,” said Dr. Sally Dowling, co-interim president/CEO of AGH.
Greg Shockley, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees, said AGH continued its mission of caring for the community, particularly during the pandemic.
“One of the things you hear from the staff of the hospital is that’s one of the reasons they go to work every day—because they’re taking care of their friends and their relatives and the people in the community,” he said. “That’s a great source of pride.”
He also praised Dowling and Kim Justice, vice president of planning/operations, for taking on the duties of interim president/CEO while the hospital was searching for a replacement for Michael Franklin, who headed the hospital from 2005-2021. AGH is currently about halfway through the search process, as interviews are expected to begin this week. Shockley said an initial round of interviews would be held via Zoom and then candidates would visit AGH.
“I think we have a good group of people to choose from…,” he said. “Our goal is to get somebody into that seat as soon as possible, so we’re looking at 60 to 90 days after we make our decision to have somebody seated and be the new president of Atlantic General Hospital.”
Dowling said that despite COVID remaining a problem in 2021, the hospital had still been able to pursue various initiatives to enhance its ability to care for the community. In January, officials opened the Atlantic General Behavioral Health Crisis Center, a walk-in facility for those dealing with mental or behavioral health problems.
“In our community, like many communities, it’s difficult for patients to access mental health care urgently,” she said, “so this will function as a critical bridge for patients.”
AGH also launched various technology improvements during the past year. A new mobile app allows for mobile check-in and scheduling for appointments. The hospital also has a new bone densitometry unit, four new ultrasound machines and is installing an automated sterilization system.
In addition, AGH is implementing ambient technology, which will allow doctors to engage with patients while an artificial intelligence transcription tool documents the visit. Dowling said that would give the patient a better experience, as the doctor would be able to make eye contact and engage with the patient fully, and would save doctors time.
“That should increase access to our providers,” she said.
She noted that those improvements have been made and are underway at the hospital in spite of a national nursing shortage and the COVID surge experienced at the end of 2021. Andi West-McCabe, director of emergency services, recalled other challenges, including medication shortages and the dozens of community members who descended on the hospital for COVID-19 testing.
“Though the challenges were there, the team did an amazing job of working together,” she said.
West-McCabe added that there were just three vacancies in Atlantic General’s emergency department.
“That is amazing with all the shortages across the country in health care,” she said.
Shockley told the commissioners construction was expected to begin on the hospital’s new ambulatory surgery center on Route 589 within the next month. He encouraged them to support AGH’s grant request as they began budgeting for the coming fiscal year.