Mercy Health Continues Responding To Community

Dr. Justin Mills is a hospitalist who checks on every patient in the hospital during his rounds. He stands in one of the 46 spacious rooms inside the Mercy Health Perrysburg Hospital. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — In the six months since St. Luke’s Hospital closed its doors, Mercy Health has listened to the community’s needs and is responding with expanded services in Perrysburg and Maumee, said Alison Avendt, the president of Mercy Health Perrysburg Hospital.

“It’s all about access to care. We want to make sure we provide the care that people need in the right place,” she said.

Perrysburg’s only full-service community hospital opened in 2019 and has since grown to include a 24-hour emergency room, a cancer center, 46 inpatient beds, inpatient and outpatient surgery and a rehab center.

The comprehensive services include surgery, critical care, lab services, imaging and diagnostic services, medical and radiology oncology services and the region’s only Gamma Knife – an advanced brain surgery tool. The 24/7 emergency room consistently ranks among the nation’s best for patient satisfaction.

“For many people from Waterville, Whitehouse, Monclova and Maumee, coming to Perrysburg for the ER or surgery may be their first experience with Mercy. It’s really important that that experience be a positive one for them – one that’s compassionate and caring,” Avendt said.

Walking through hospital, Avendt greeted many of the staff members by name. 

“It’s been nice to see familiar faces,” said Avendt, whose 30-year career included chief operating officer at McLaren St. Luke’s. 

She credits Mercy CEO Bob Baxter and the entire Mercy system for offering positions to any former St. Luke’s employee. More than 400 decided to do just that, and Mercy found positions for them within the system, including the Perrysburg hospital.

Since the closure of St. Luke’s, Mercy Health Perrysburg Hospital has grown in volume and is regularly at 80-percent occupancy for inpatient stays. 

With spacious halls and sunlit rooms large enough to accommodate visiting family members, the 18-bed progressive care unit often surprises those new to the hospital, said inpatient manager Sarah Meiner.

“A lot of patients say they didn’t realize what Perrysburg was capable of,” said Meiner, as she led a tour through the area. 

The staff works with patients who might be referred for a stay from the ER or after a planned surgery. The unit has a room for occupational therapy and physical therapy sessions to assess progress after a joint replacement.

Outpatient surgeries in the Perrysburg hospital have also grown, from about 20 cases a day to 35 or 40, said pre-op and post-op supervisor Tracy Wojciechowski. 

“We do a little bit of everything – upper and lower scopes, colonoscopies, ortho,” she said, explaining that since St. Luke’s closed, she’s seen an uptick in the number of total joint replacements and other low-risk surgeries. 

All of the patients are overseen by an on-site hospitalist, including Dr. Justin Mills.

“Their job is to go around to see all the patients. From a nursing standpoint, we’re really lucky. And we have a very good team dynamic,” Meiner said.

The ER has grown from 12,000 patients in 2022 to 22,000 patients so far this year. To accommodate that growth and anticipate patient needs in the ER, Mercy has added services, such as the addition of triage and imaging services and a 24/7 heart catheterization lab.

“We want to make sure there’s an option close for someone having a heart attack. We can open up that heart vessel and save a life,” Avendt said.

Mercy is currently reviewing plans to expand the ER by eight bays and is looking at utilizing another area for non-bed, seated treatment space – such as for patients seeking an exam during cold and flu season.

In addition to an expansion of the ER, Mercy is reviewing plans for adding parking and adjusting the entryway off of Eckel Junction Road, which can be hard to see at times. Mercy recently purchased the properties occupied by Goodyear Tire and Enterprise Rental – which flank the entrance – and is working with the city on ideas for improving the entryway.

“We’re in a great location. There is so much growth in this part of the community. I feel we’re in the right place – we just have to figure out how to expand this more while being good stewards of our money, not just building to build but building what the community needs,” Avendt said.

While the focus is on Perrysburg, Mercy Health is also doing due diligence on its use of the former St. Luke’s campus in Maumee.

“It’s all about access to care and making sure we have it in the right place,” she said.

Remaining open on the Maumee campus are physicians’ offices, medical office buildings and the outpatient rehab with occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and aquatic therapy.

Originally, Mercy thought of relocating the Cardiac Rehab Phase 3 site, but patients lobbied to keep that unit open in the main building and Mercy responded. The auditorium and conference center are being used for community events, and maintenance staff is taking good care of the entire building.

“We’re looking at the possibility of a freestanding emergency department where the existing ER is. In talks with people, it’s something they say they want close to home. That’s important,” Avendt said.

Over several months, Mercy held listening sessions for the community to share their desires for what they wanted in health care, and staff is still reviewing all of those suggestions and weighing options to make the right decisions.

For more information on Mercy services, visit www.mercy.com.

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