Major renovations, new services coming to Pineville Community Health Center

Published 3:49 pm Monday, February 26, 2024

By Jay Compton


Big things are happening at the Pineville Community Health Center. After years of financial troubles that led to bankruptcy, the hospital nearly having to close its doors, then the city and eventually First State Bank taking over management, new ownership has stabilized operations and is now focused on providing more services.

“We are changing the dynamic of Prineville Community Health Center,” said Michael Frey, who leads the new ownership group. “For the first time in I don’t know how long this hospital is generating real healthcare revenue and it’s not borrowing money all over the place to make payrolls.”

The changes are evident with new landscaping on the outside of the building and a complete renovation to modernize the lobby that was just finished. The hospital has added new equipment and is expanding the types of care available for patients.

Bell Terrace, a 12-bed geriatric psych unit, re-opened last year. The 30-bed nursing home on the main floor is being completely renovated and will be opened back up very soon. There are 12 acute care beds being used in the Med/Surg wing and all of them were full with patients all of last week.

Frey was initially involved when Americore took over the hospital but walked away from the James Biden backed corporation before the funding started to unravel. He and his wife, Natalie, were very passionate about coming back to Pineville after getting to know the people who worked at the hospital.

“We know the quality of the people that work in this building, they’re good-hearted people. So we always had this magnet that sucked us back here,” he said. “When the Americore debacle finally ended and the bank took it over and kept it alive — they deserve a lot of credit for that — we came in with a plan. The bank was willing to work out a deal for us to take it over. That’s what we’ve done and I think we’re off to a good start.”

They’ve developed a business model that correlates with the community’s needs and Frey said a big part of that is creating an environment the staff can be proud of.

“A big focus for us as an ownership group is to give this staff what they deserve and what they’ve deserved for a long time because there are so many here that have stuck through and stuck by this hospital through the darkest days you could imagine,” Frey said. “We’re very aware of those days and what we want to do is make this a place that they’re proud to come to work for. We’ve got several things that we’re going to launch here in the near future.”

Hospital CEO Dr. Timothy York said a lot of the work has been to fix both the image of PCHC as well as parts of the infrastructure that had fallen into disrepair.

“There were so many things that had been neglected or let go through the years as the hospital went down through bankruptcy and came out on the other side. From the sidewalks to the catwalk, the shrubbery and landscaping, you don’t have to look far to see the neglect that had occurred at the facility,” he said. “There were points when the community wasn’t even sure the hospital was still open.

“We are still open, still the same hospital that’s been here since 1938 when it was started by four physicians. It’s not the same management group or anything else, but we are committed to keeping this hospital open for the community.”

Brittany Hill, the hospital’s revenue cycle manager, said concerns about PCHC not having the necessary supplies to treat patients are a thing of the past.

“Supplies are not an issue at all. As an employee here, if we tell them we need something we don’t have to worry about getting it now. We get it,” she said. “It used to be that it was hard to get a pack of paper, we don’t worry about that kind of stuff now. The community doesn’t have to worry. We have all of the appropriate supplies to take care of patients.”

PCHC has added a state-of-the-art CT Scan and now has a modern infusion room to treat serious diabetic patients. There are plans to renovate the ER and work will begin soon on creating a unique drug rehab unit through a partnership with the entertainment industry.

The hospital has partnered with the VA and other organizations to provide services for veterans and the community as a whole.

Hospital officials said the 160-slice CT unit provides the best imaging available within 80 miles. The nearest diabetic infusions are 40 miles away in either direction.

“It’s important to us, as we continue to get services on line, that people don’t have to drive an hour or two away,” York said. “If a loved one gets shipped out to Lexington sometimes that tank of gas is a big ordeal for a family. If that were you laying up in Lexington without any family, it’s heartbreaking. Our goal is to handle what we can here locally for our community.”

Frey said he was a firm believer that it was unfair to people in rural areas to have to drive hours away to get the healthcare they need and that more of those services are coming to PCHC.

“We’re going to roll out orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics, things like that — Specialties are coming,” he said. “We finally have people in the building that are doing what they say they’re doing and not just a bunch of empty promises. We are investing back in the hospital and it’s important for everyone to know this is not smoke and mirrors.”

The owner said that the renovations started with the lobby and front desk because that was the first thing people see when they walk into the building. The area that used to house the gift shop is being turned into an internet cafe for people to use while waiting for patients. Attention will then be turned toward the Emergency Room.

“Our ER is about to be renovated and that’s another thing that’s important to us just like the lobby was — you’re going to come in one of two doors, either the lobby or the ER,” Frey said. “I don’t want someone to come in through an ER that looks like it’s from the ’60s, I want them to come into an ER with fresh equipment that has all been upgraded. One that is up to par with today’s standards and it’s going to be.”

Frey added that the hospital is employing a phenomenal interior designer who is helping revamp how the facility looks and they are not cutting any corners.

He said the staff of the hospital has nearly doubled since the change in ownership. According to their website, PCHC currently has 77 employees and Frey said they were looking to add 250-300 more jobs by the time all is said and done.

The last hurdle PCHC needs to overcome is reclaiming the full trust of the community so more people will take advantage of the services being offered. Having all 12 acute care beds in use last week is a step in that direction.

“That’s a significant sign of change for the better. There used to be people who wouldn’t bring their mom or dad here so we’re getting through that threshold, it just takes a little bit of time,” Frey said. “We understand there are some issues that still have to be resolved, but we’ve got the right people in place to resolve them… Our focus now first and foremost is patient care and creating the right environment.”