The new Cox Monett is a beacon of investment and hope for rural health care.
For Cox Monett President Darren Bass, walking through the hospital’s new location is a surreal experience.
Hospital and community leaders have known for almost 20 years that a new building would become a reality, someday.
By the time Bass led donors and staff members on the first tours of the hospital in January, he could hardly believe what was happening.
“I am in shock to be in the new facility,” he says. “This is what we dreamed of. I am so thankful I got to see this personally and live through it.”
For leaders and staff at Monett, the project is the culmination of careful planning and intense discussion about meeting the community’s needs, now and in the future.
When the facility opened on Jan. 22, it stood ready to serve, and it stood for something even bigger.
The new Cox Monett facility is a symbol of investment in the region. It’s a declaration of hope for the future – hope that is welcome and refreshing after months of battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are a lot of emotions going on right now,” Bass says. “This is a beautiful facility. It’s designed with thought for our caregivers and patients at the forefront and we were able to fit all of our needs and wants into something that is ready for the community.
“This is a historic moment. This shows the level of devotion to the community CoxHealth has.”
A jewel for rural health
Building a new hospital in a rural area is an unusual move in 2021, but Monett is a unique place. The need for local care in the growing area is ongoing, and Bass sees the new facility as a beacon of hope.
“I hope this ignites the sense of purpose for rural medicine,” he says. “We know there are a lot of partners in rural medicine who are struggling. We want to be a success story in rural health that people can latch on to.”
Bass’ passion for rural health is driven by a simple fact: access to care is vital.
From a prevention perspective, rural hospitals and clinics also offer easy access to preventive services and screenings. Many patients might avoid travel for mammograms and colonoscopies, but having those services available locally can make a big difference.
“Rural health care saves lives. We are the stopgap when something is happening – to travel 2-3 hours away can mean the difference between life and death.”
Bass says that has been abundantly clear during COVID-19. People with mild cases may be at home, monitoring their symptoms, but patients can decline quickly. A rural hospital can provide interventions like oxygen and support that can stabilize patients.
“There are trends of centralizing health care in cities, but in those instances where people teeter between life and death, we can be lifesaving,” he says.
One look at the new hospital makes it clear: Monett’s facility now matches the award-winning level of care that the hospital has been recognized for.
“When you first walk in, and see the logo with the arch design, it makes you appreciate CoxHealth,” Bass says. “It feels like an extension of the construction at Cox South. This building is deserving of that brand and that logo. Patients will experience that. It makes me so proud.”
The facility is designed to be comfortable and convenient for patients, and efficient for staff.
Bass points out that the new facility is actually a bit smaller than the legacy hospital, but any wasted space has been eliminated. The single-level facility features no elevators or stairwells, and each department was custom designed with input from the staff who work there daily.
“We got our budget and the square feet then turned it over to our teams to say, ‘design it the way that makes sense to you,’” he says.
Leaders encouraged the staff to find the pain points in their workflows and find ways to get rid of them.
For the overall design, Bass says there are three issues he listed as personal “must haves” for Cox Monett’s patients:
A dedicated helicopter pad, eliminating issues with parking-lot landings.
An enclosed ambulance bay for transferring patients. The new bay is completely private, rather than being partially exposed to the public as the ambulance area was at the old hospital.
A C-section unit inside Labor and Delivery. In the previous hospital’s L&D department, laboring moms had to be wheeled through a corridor to be taken to a surgical suite. For staff, and for Bass, having a suite inside L&D, where patients could have complete privacy became a top priority.
Elsewhere, staff ideas and a desire to make the facility efficient drove other changes, including an integrated MRI, behavioral health rooms, and added negative-pressure rooms in the ED.
“It took a lot of iterations and evolution to get there, but we have designed for what is in the best interest of our staff and our patients in the future,” Bass says.
A culture of growth
The new facility will draw attention, but ultimately a hospital’s success depends on its people.
Bass says that for providers considering joining the team, the new facility looks like a place to grow, not a sleepy place to retire.
Ideally, the facility and the care inside will mirror and reinforce one another: excellent care provided in an excellent facility.
That’s why Cox Monett’s commitment to a great workplace culture is more important than ever.
“This is an evolution that we are still working on,” Bass says. “We have made a commitment to taking a hard look at what we need to do.”
Over the last several years, Cox Monett’s leadership team has focused on engaging staff with employee forums and expanding communication.
For Bass, that means setting high expectations for leaders and holding everyone accountable.
“We want to live and breathe the mission and the vision. We are focused on patient perceptions of care,” he says. “Accountability is big: We want to know what is expected and what is being done. I want to know what is getting in the way of doing those things, so we can bring in resources to do things better. We want to help staff get rid of any barriers in their day so they can get the important things done.”
‘Pride & Progress’
The City of Monett’s official motto is “Pride and Progress.” Hospital leaders are proud to have invested in a facility that embodies that sentiment.
“This isn’t what you see in most small towns. We have been blessed to see in-migration,” Bass says.
Local health care is key for a community of any size, and it can be an important driver of growth.
“This is another notch on our belt with what this community has done with infrastructure,” he says. “The expansion of world-class health care is another way the community is encouraging businesses and families to look seriously at Monett as a place to work, a place to live and a place to build a future.”
As Monett expands, Bass says images of the new hospital in a field will someday be like the 1980s photos of Cox South, standing alone before the explosion of growth in south Springfield.
“I’m thankful we have an aerial shot of the hospital on 160 open acres. We are not going to be the only business out here for long,” he says. “There are going to be interests that align for growth and we will keep adding here.
“We are making a huge statement for southwest Missouri, for Barry and Lawrence Counties. CoxHealth is demonstrating our commitment at the highest level.
“We are a part of the story of what Monett is and what Monett is evolving to be. We are another reason to choose Monett.”
This piece is from the commemorative issue of CoxHealth Connection published in February. A limited number of copies will be available soon at Cox Monett and you can see the whole issue at this link.