Joseph F. Berenato
AtlantiCare Health Park turns 10
Expanding services at its WHP location
HAMMONTON—On July 29, AtlantiCare’s Hammonton Health Park celebrated the 10th anniversary of treating its first patient, which happened one day after the facility’s ribbon cutting, held on July 28, 2011.
Glen Ann Stoll, the Assistant Vice President for Primary Care and the Regional Administrator for Western Markets, said that the growth over the past decade has been “phenomenal.”
“I think the acceptance from the community to partner with us for their healthcare is second to none. We’re just so proud to be a member of the Hammonton community, and are continuing to be grateful to be able to continue to work together,” Stoll said.
Donna Sutts, the facility’s site director, concurred.
“It’s a lot of good growth. It’s all good problems to have. We’ve increased the amount of physicians and the type of physicians ... We went from three timeshare rooms—exam rooms that would be shared—and now we have 15 that are shared, but three of the practices have now gone full-time here, which is why their expansion was here,” Sutts said.
Stoll explained further.
“We have seen close to 140,000 patients in our emergency department and over 100,000 patients in primary care. We have tested 285,000 specimens through the AtlantiCare clinical labs in the last 10 years. Our first year in timeshare was 855 patients; this year, Donna’s on target: just under 10,000,” Stoll said.
Part of the reason for the growth, Stoll said, is the expansion of services.
“We have a lot of the ologies, as we jokingly call them. We have every ology: gastroenterology, neurology, nephrology, cardiology, gynecology and the list keeps growing. Donna has seen that growth from the beginning, which has really been awesome ... We expanded to five-day-a-week cardiology, five-day-a-week endocrinology and five-day-a-week OB/GYN services—but actually six, since they see patients on Saturdays,” Stoll said.
When Hammonton Health Park was first constructed, Stoll said, it remained to be seen what services would be needed.
“In the beginning, we weren’t sure what the appetite was going to be, what the volume was going to be, so we built out a lot of shelled space. When we first opened up the building, it was just shy of 40,000 square feet; with the new addition, it was another 9,200 square feet. We are now built all the way out, the whole campus, and utilizing all of that space. The growth here has been tremendous; really tremendous,” Stoll said.
Stoll said that is has been “a really good feeling to watch it grow.”
“AtlantiCare’s my baby. We were here from the beginning and had the opportunity to help build the campus. We built the campus with feedback from the community, and what it is they were looking for. They wanted to bring the specialists here; they didn’t want to leave town. Having that opportunity to then dialogue, to go to the specialists and say, ‘The Hammonton community is looking for these specialists; come give us a shot’ is how the timeshare grew so quickly,” Stoll said.
Stoll said that their goal was—and continues to be—to make treatment convenient for the patient.
“We’re continuing to grow to meet the needs of the community, and we’ll always do that. We won’t stop growing. Whether we need to shift gears—whether it’s another specialty, another ology, if you will—we want to make care accessible to the community. How do we do that? There’s been a lot of talk: are there other things that we can build on this campus? We have another 12,000 square-foot freestanding pad in the back corner; what’s it going to take to build that out? We’re always thinking: what’s the next opportunity for us to provide service to the community? There’s continued growth opportunities here; it’s just identifying the right ones that will benefit the folks in Hammonton,” Stoll said.
One such partnership which has existed since the beginning of Hammonton Health Park is with AMI (Atlantic Medical Imaging) AtlantiCare Hammonton.
“Ten years ago, when AtlantiCare was coming to Hammonton, they asked AMI to be the medical imaging service for them. We accepted—and we’ve been having fun the whole time. It’s been a great relationship with AtlantiCare,” Dr. Amerigo Falciani, AMI AtlantiCare Hammonton’s medical director, said.
Falciani said that Hammonton is “very fortunate to have a facility like this complex we have.”
“The services that we provide, I think, are beneficial for a lot of people in the community, like CAT scans, MRI, X-ray, mammogram, diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. It’s an asset to the town of Hammonton to be able to have this quality of healthcare and medical imaging for the community,” Falciani said.
Falciani said that the partnership also extends beyond the walls of Hammonton Health Park.
“We do the Red, White and Blueberry Festival and the Halloween parade together. We’re always doing things together,” he said.
Sutts also commented on the community events in which AtlantiCare has taken part in order to help build relationships with community members.
“I think all the events we do are great. We participate in the Red, White and Blueberry Festival and the Peach Party, the National Night Out, the Feast and more,” Sutts said.
Stoll expanded on the topic.
“We’ve been the presenting sponsor for a few years for the Peach Party; we were one of the inaugural sponsors when it was the farmer’s market downtown on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Those relationships—those grass-roots relationships—we wanted people to get to know AtlantiCare, and that we’re committed to providing an exceptional patient experience,” Stoll said.
The question, Stoll said, was how to earn the community’s trust.
“We wanted to do that by really getting out to know the community. Donna, myself, our teams have gone to the Red, White and Blueberry Festival and gave out water in droves on the procession path during the Mt. Carmel Festival. It’s all of those little things that led up to the big things. You have the opportunity to learn from the community and then also hear from the community, what it is that they’re looking for and how we can meet those needs,” Stoll said.
Sutts concurred regarding the importance of relationships, and noted a particularly favorite memory from the past decade.
“Someone stopped my older brother one day, and told him how I connected him through the whole building. He went from one specialist to another to another. My brother called me at work, and was like, ‘I didn’t realize that’s what you do.’ I guess we do that on a daily basis, and we don’t realize it, because that patient went from cardiology immediately to AMI. If they need to, they’ll go right to the ER. We connect people every day, and don’t realize what we’re really doing,” Sutts said.
All of that, Stoll said, was done within the walls of Hammonton Health Park.
“We wanted to create that one-stop shop so you have—AMI’s been a tremendous partner—so you have all of your radiology studies here. Having the lab here is incredibly important; some people come to the lab a couple times a week, so then they create that relationship with their phlebotomist. You build that trust. It’s incredibly important to us, and the same to our providers in primary care. Those things really mean something to us,” Stoll said.
Sutts said that the reverse also occurs.
“If a local patient goes to the emergency room for a problem and the ER doesn’t see it as something to be admitted for, possibly to just see a specialist, we have had our doctors walk there—the cardiologists—or the cardiologists bring them here, and they can have tests on the same day, because we have echos and stress tests. Then, they go home; there’s no hospital stay. We cut out the hospital stay for them; we did a lot of that during COVID, because you didn’t want to go in a hospital during COVID. We did that little shortcut almost once a week in the beginning,” Sutts said.
Dr. Reva Dubin, attending physician and past medical director of the Hammonton Satellite Emergency Department (SED), said that there is great patient diversity.
“Every ER, probably in the world, has their own different diversity. Hammonton’s diversity is that, with the extension of EMS and cars and foot traffic, you get patients from a wide variety: from farm owners to migrant workers to people on the turf soccer fields to paramedics who bring patients in from their homes. You get a wide variety of medical problems, and we can stabilize anybody who needs whatever services they need—if they call 911 or if they come in—and if we can’t treat them, then they get transferred to the appropriate facility,” Dubin said.
Dubin noted a variety of services that have been performed in the emergency department.
“Over the years, even though we’re free-standing, we’ve saved people with heart attacks and strokes, we’ve delivered babies, we’ve taken care of burns. Unfortunately, COVID came, and we had to take care of both minor and major, severely ill patients—but, hopefully, that’s on the out now,” Dubin said.
Dr. John Keogh started working at the SED in 2014 and took over as its medical director in 2019. He said that a number of changes were made to standard operating procedures in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Things are always evolving. That, as medical director, has been at the forefront of my mind: how to manage the department in the midst of a global pandemic, and having visitor restrictions and lifting them, and figuring out the best way to make sure families know their loved ones are cared for in the department, how to make sure patients are safe and also everyone who works in the department is safe. These are the things we’ve been working on throughout the past year and a half ... I see that at the other departments as well,” Keogh said.
Keogh said that the response from the community, both during the pandemic and prior, has been overwhelming.
“I can’t tell you how many times people have brought in blueberries or desserts, whether it’s patients or patient families. We had a really sad case—a tragic case, actually—but the family was just so appreciative of all the staff’s work that, for the next week, even though something horrible had happened, they were coming in to bring food in for the staff,” Keogh said.
Dubin concurred with Keogh.
“I’ve been in emergency medicine for a long time, and worked in a lot of emergency departments, and the reason why I love working in Hammonton is because it’s so rewarding to take care of pleasant and appreciative patients who live in Hammonton or the surrounding areas and come to the SED for care. For me, that’s been particularly rewarding—especially when people come to the ER there, they’re in pain, they’re ill, they’re scared and it’s very humbling. The thing about Hammonton is that there is really time to talk to the patients and really get to know them and give them very good care,” Dubin said.
Dubin also spoke to the fortitude of Hammonton’s senior residents.
“Hammonton has so many seniors that are independent and highly active. Not that long ago, I had a senior farmer who dislocated his shoulder. He walked into the emergency room. He basically said, ‘Put it back, because I have to go back to work. I don’t want medicine. I don’t want anything.’ He lay down on the bed, took a nice deep breath and I put it back. He didn’t even want his paperwork. He probably went back to his tractor. That, to me, was a great interaction,” Dubin said.
Dubin said that the “team in Hammonton that cares for patients is like a family.”
“A lot of them have known each other for years; maybe they worked together at Kessler, and maybe that adds to it. They’re like a big family. Every step is sort of like, we’re going to take care of people, but we’re also coming home. Even for a new person, they’re accepting that way. They’ll learn your favorite food and bake it for you. It just is that way,” Dubin said.
“It seems like everyone knows each other. I’m sort of new to that; I grew up in New York and I live in Medford, so I’m still getting to know everybody, but some of the staff here that lives in town and works here feel like they know everybody who walks through the door, which is really nice,” Keogh said.
Falciani also spoke to the importance of creating that type of feel for the facility.
“I always tell people, when they first start here, that I want to keep it as a family community, and these are the things that have progressed for the past 10 years. I always maintain that family-like attitude; the equipment and the building are great, but I think it’s the people that make it even better. That’s where we focus, and that’s where we excel. Because of that attitude that we can provide for ourselves, we make it an enjoyable work environment—plus the community really sees that as well,” Falciani said.
Stoll said that—among other reasons—that community connection made Sutts the natural choice for site director as Hammonton Health Park started growing.
“She grew up here and has such incredible pride, she literally knows everybody and it’s making those connections—whether it’s with the doctor or the specialist, peer-to-peer or even recruiting staff—we want to get people here with the same culture; everybody’s here to provide a great experience. You don’t want people to leave here with questions. You want them to leave here with the information that they need to have optimal health, and I think that no one could have led it better than Donna,” Stoll said.
Stoll, who has also been with Hammonton Health Park since the beginning, said that she takes pride in the past decade.
“This has really been my baby. I was here walking the halls as we built it, as we knocked down the building behind the Ranere House,” Stoll said.
Stoll said that the Ranere House is the source of what she considers her two best moments of the last 10 years.
“I’m working over in the Ranere House, and the doorbell rings in the kitchen. It’s an older man. I open the door and I say, ‘May I help you?’ He said, ‘You can, actually; this was my childhood home.’ It was Pete Ranere. Then he became my boyfriend, I teased him. ‘You’re adorable! Oh my gosh!’ He came in and had a cup of coffee and had a great conversation. I asked him—and implored him—‘Please bring your family back here.’ There’s so much history in this house; I couldn’t be any more fortunate than to have my office in this home,” Stoll said.
Stoll said that, aside from being aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, the history in that building is “just remarkable.”
“We had the opportunity to host Pete and his sister and number of their children and grandchildren on a Saturday and we did a luncheon. They shared history about the house that was just tremendous. There’s still holes in the floor that he could describe when we lifted up the carpet. There’s original cabinetry. Just to see the joy on his face to be there, and then to share those stories with his grandchildren, was, for me, just awesome. What a delightful gentleman. We lost a legend, for sure,” Stoll said, referencing Ranere’s death earlier in 2021.
To mark the anniversary of the first patient, the staff at Hammonton Health Park continued to do what they have done since the beginning: treat patients. However, Stoll and Sutts did not let the occasion go by completely unobserved.
“As a show of appreciation, we wanted to do something fun, hence the blueberry cannoli that we’re going to go deliver. We’re going to give one to every staff member. Not every staff member has been here since Day One, but there’s a fair amount, especially over in the emergency department; a lot of those folks came from Kessler and joined AtlantiCare. There’s a fair amount, and they’re continuing that same tradition of care for the community,” Stoll said.
Sutts agreed, and noted that two of her staff members also used to work at William B. Kessler Memorial Hospital.
“They wanted to stay in town. They know everybody. They help everybody every day. I think it’s great that you do that; it’s rewarding ... I’m just glad I saw this all grow. I’m local, so I bring my family here and you want it to grow—and I’m glad that it has. It has every specialty that I would need. You hope it continues to grow for your kids and grandkids,” Sutts said.