Q&A with Stephen Machen

January 23, 2013 

City of Residence: Kathleen

Occupation: Administrator, Houston Medical Center

QUESTION: Houston Healthcare has done nothing but grow since it was founded in the late 1950s. How many employees now?

ANSWER: Currently we have approximately 2,400 employees.

QUESTION: That includes the main hospitals in Warner Robins and Perry and all other facilities?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: Houston Healthcare is a county, not-for-profit entity, right?

ANSWER: Correct. It’s a county authority hospital system. HHC is the system, and then we have Houston Hospitals, Inc. that oversees the operation of Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins, the Perry Hospital and all the other clinical centers such as the med stops, emergency medical services, Houston Heart Institute, Houston Health Pavilion and such.

QUESTION: Compare the early days of the two hospitals with today.

ANSWER: The Warner Robins Hospital, as it was called back then, started out with 50 beds and about 44,500 square feet. Today, it’s 510,000 square feet and 237 licensed beds.

The Perry hospital opened in 1969 with 32,440 square feet. Now it has 68,750 square feet and 45 licensed beds.

QUESTION: What are Houston Healthcare’s free-standing facilities away from the hospitals?

ANSWER: Quite a list. There’s Houston Lake Med-Stop, Lake Joy Med-Stop, Houston Lake Rehab, Emergency Medical Service and Houston Health Pavilion, which includes the Pavilion Rehabilitation Center, Pavilion Family Medicine Center and Residency Program, Pavilion Diagnostic Center, Pavilion Med-Stop and the Community Education (EduCare) Center.

QUESTION: Houston Medical Center attempted a move at one time because it was landlocked. It’s still in the same place but continues to grow.

ANSWER: We are landlocked and that has presented problems, but we’ve found solutions and are able to have all the necessary services on our hospital campus to provide for our patients. Through the strategic vision and planning of our board, we’ve also been able to bring services closer to population areas so that people don’t have to travel as far to get many of the services they need. We’ve created alternative health care destinations for services that don’t require hospitalization, like non-emergency services and physical therapy.

QUESTION: There’s obviously new construction going on on-campus in Warner Robins behind the hospital at the corner of Briarcliff Road and Sunset Boulevard.

ANSWER: Actually, what we’re doing there is building water retention ponds. EPA clean water regulations require us to build the retention ponds before we harden any more services. We’re planning to expand some existing facilities and add parking, but before we can we have to create the retention ponds.

QUESTION: So no new facilities there, just the ponds, so you can expand at other spots?

ANSWER: Right. We hope to begin that expansion in late March or August this year. When we do that, we’ll have to fence off a number of current parking spaces. When the retention ponds are complete, they’ll be nicely landscaped, but due to safety regulations they’ll be fenced off, and it won’t be like a park or anything.

QUESTION: Briefly sketch the expansion.

ANSWER: It will include such things as expanding the Houston Heart Institute, catheterization labs, endoscopy, pre-op, surgical areas and the post-anesthesia care unit. Plus we’ll be adding 100 parking spaces. The $41 million project was approved by state health planning at the end of last year. The existing surgery suites haven’t been renovated since the mid-1980s. Equipment has, but the building hasn’t. We’re using mid-1980s sized rooms and modern standards call for larger ones.

QUESTION: How will it change things physically, looking at the hospital?

ANSWER: What people will see, particularly on the older east end, is the hospital will extend out further toward Watson Boulevard and get a whole new face. It will come out over where the drive along the front is now, and we’ll create a whole new access and drop off point with a more circular drive around. No parking will be taken, but the current drives will go, and a new loop will replace them.

QUESTION: Are there any near-original doctors still practicing at the hospital?

ANSWER: The longest serving physicians are Dr. Hari Jayaraj who began practice here in 1979 and Dr. Bruce Samson who came in 1980.

QUESTION: You’ve discussed some future plans, any others?

ANSWER: Just to continue providing excellent services to the community and Middle Georgia. We’re proud of the people and services we have and were recently recognized as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country and one of only three in Georgia on that list. We’ll continue to grow and meet community and regional needs.

Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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