Throughout the 1990s, health care operated under difficult conditions: most Massachusetts hospitals felt the squeeze from shrinking payor reimbursements, and some were forced to cut back on programs or close entirely. Despite these challenges, South Shore Hospital managed to flourish. Southeastern Massachusetts residents chose the Hospital for care in record-breaking numbers, enabling it to grow from the 18th busiest in the late 1980s to the 10th busiest acute care hospital in Massachusetts by 1992. In the process, South Shore made important strides to meet the most urgent community health care needs.
In doing so, the Hospital capitalized on its proximity to Boston, forging innovative partnerships with Children's Hospital Boston and Brigham and Women's Hospital, bringing teaching-hospital expertise to area residents. Notable achievements made in specific areas are outlined below.
The 1990s saw South Shore Hospital position itself as the primary regional provider of pediatric care. In 1991, the Hospital received Level II designation for its Special Care Nursery, enabling the Hospital to care for high-risk mothers and babies. The Hospital also formed a strategic partnership with Children's Hospital; throughout the 1990s, this partnership enabled the Hospital to open an adolescent medicine clinic, a new children's genetics clinic and pediatric inpatient services, neonatology, and several outpatient specialty clinics for children with cardiac, gastrointestinal, and other complex conditions.
In 1998, the Hospital launched a pediatric emergency service in conjunction with Children's Hospital - the first of its kind in the region - offering round-the-clock availability of certified pediatric emergency care from Children's emergency physicians.
Throughout the 1990s, South Shore Hospital continued to be the maternity center of choice for area women. A new maternity center opened in 1991, and by 1996, the Hospital expanded maternity service again by converting an intensive care unit into an eight-bed antenatal unit, designed for evaluating and monitoring maternity patients not in active labor.
Beginning in 1996, the Hospital offered a convenient way for women experiencing infertility to receive expert reproductive endocrinology and infertility services by teaming with Brigham and Women's Hospital. The new clinic enabled patients to be diagnosed and treated by board-certified specialists from the Brigham right at South Shore Hospital.
Breast cancer screening and treatment also expanded dramatically during the late 1990s: In 1998 the Hospital introduced a comprehensive evaluation and treatment program - the only one of its kind in the region - that coordinates all aspects of a breast cancer patient's care. In 1999, the Hospital appointed a full-time women's health manager to support and guide women throughout diagnoses and treatments and also help coordinate care among various specialists.
In addition, mammography services were expanded in 1998 and again in 1999, drastically reducing waits for these important screenings. Also in 1999, a new technology was acquired - a stereotactic breast biopsy unit - to allow radiologists to use computer-generated images to pinpoint the exact location of suspected tumors.
In 1990, South Shore Health and Educational Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to the region's future health care needs by launching a $3.2 million capital fund campaign for a new emergency and maternity center. The campaign was chaired by C. Herbert Emilson of Marshfield, elected chairman of the Foundation board of trustees in 1991, and co-chaired by Dr. James A. Dolphin, a 32-year veteran of the Hospital's medical staff. This effort marked the first multi-million dollar campaign in the Hospital's 70-year history.
For the Hospital's 75th anniversary, a $10 million campaign was launched in 1996. This effort concluded successfully in September 1998, raising more than $10 million in cash, pledges, and planned gifts - the Hospital's largest-ever fundraising campaign.
South Shore Hospital's cancer management program, which had grown more than 40 percent since 1980, received a maximum three-year re-accreditation from the American College of Surgeons in 1992. Hospital cancer management team members were recognized yet again when the Massachusetts Department of Public Health asked South Shore Hospital to work with Quincy Hospital to construct a much-needed regional radiation therapy service - which later became known as South Suburban Oncology.
In 1994, interdisciplinary rounds were introduced in the inpatient cancer care program to facilitate individual case reviews among oncologists, pain management physicians, and staff from nursing, continuing care, social services, physical therapy, pastoral care, nutrition, oncology, home health, and Hospice of the South Shore. Also in 1999, the partnership with Brigham and Women's expanded to include specialized treatment for ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancers.
In 1992 South Shore Hospital became the site of Brigham and Women's Hospital's prestigious cardiac fellowship program, providing opportunities for new physicians to learn from South Shore's experienced cardiologists. Hospital cardiologists also completed their work as part of a five-year, international study, Survival and Ventricular Enlargement, conducted at only 112 hospitals across the United States and Canada.
In 1995, the Hospital opened its cardiac catheterization laboratory - offering physicians a critical tool in diagnosing heart disease by visualizing potentially life-threatening coronary vessel blockages. In 1996, the Transitional Care Center began accepting patients transferred from Brigham and Women's Hospital within four days of their open-heart surgery to receive "inpatient" cardiac rehabilitation, including monitored activity progression, cardiac risk-factor education, and psychosocial support.
Also in 1996, two nursing units merged to form one expanded cardiac care unit, enabling the Hospital to care for higher acuity cardiac patients, including those with myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, chest pain, cardiac irregularities, unstable angina, and pacemakers, and monitor patients after invasive cardiac procedures. In addition, new equipment was added to provide EKG monitoring for up to 32 patients on the 45-bed unit. The Hospital also began to offer intra-aortic balloon counterpulsation to benefit cardiac patients suffering complicated heart attacks, congestive heart failure, as well as some post-cardiac catheterization patients who required further interventions.
In 1998, South Shore introduced the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic, the most comprehensive program of its kind in the region. This new outpatient clinic helped patients understand the earliest signs of trouble and what they could do to prevent hospitalization. That year also brought a new digital viewing system with Brigham and Women's Hospital to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, allowing cardiologists from both hospitals to simultaneously view pictures of a patient's heart.
Advanced Life Support
In May 1992, South Shore Hospital launched an advanced life support program in partnership with 11 communities to deliver 24-hour paramedic coverage. The program combined existing basic emergency medical technicians with a higher level of emergency care by paramedics. By 1993, ALS expended to five more towns - bringing the total population served to nearly 210,000 in a service area of 209 square miles.
In 1991, South Shore Hospital became the first hospital in Massachusetts to earn maximum three-year accreditation with commendation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Since introducing accreditation with commendation - its most distinguished level of recognition - in 1991, JCAHO had awarded it to fewer than six percent of 2,672 hospitals surveyed.
The Hospital set records again in 1994 and 1997 when it received consecutive back-to-back three-year JCAHO accreditations with commendation. Both times, it was the first hospital in Massachusetts to earn this distinction.
For the region's growing elderly population, the Hospital introduced an award-winning transitional rehabilitation program in 1991 to give patients who might have been permanent nursing home residents a better chance to go home. In 1996, South Shore Regional Health Services expanded to include 12 facilities, bringing services to more nursing home residents and patients requiring home health care.
In 1997, the Hospital introduced the Partnership for Senior Health, a new department designed to improve the quality and availability of health care services for seniors. To help meet this goal, the partnership introduced Healthy Values, a membership program that helped people over age 60 stay active and healthy by providing them with discounts on health programs and leisure activities, as well as access to health insurance experts.
Facilities and Personnel
In 1991, an expanded emergency department opened, offering a separate urgent care area, and creating much-needed comfort and convenience for patients. Designed to accommodate more than 60,000 patient visits a year, it was a huge improvement over the former emergency department, built in 1967 to handle 15,000 visits annually. A November dedication ceremony featured Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld as keynote speaker, and drew more than 800 supporters. The Emergency Center received national recognition, with an award from the National Symposium on Healthcare Design for its "innovative, life-enhancing design that supports healing and promotes well-being."
In January 1993, the Hospital acquired the master lease for the building at 780 Main Street from Bay State Health Care and opened an Outpatient Services Center. The 47,000 square-foot center made it easier to schedule surgery at times for both patients and surgeons, allowed key outpatient programs to expand, and accelerated the Hospital's timetable to respond to growing numbers of area residents needing ambulatory surgery.
Six months later, the Hospital opened a comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Center in a dramatically renovated West Wing I. Launched and managed in association with AdvantageHealth Corporation and its New England Rehabilitation Hospital, the center was developed to meet the regional need for rehabilitation services directed by a physiatrist.
In September 1993, Arthur Sharp succeeded Harry W. Healey, Jr., as chairman of the South Shore Hospital Board of Directors. Robert Deininger succeeded Herb Emilson as Chairman of the South Shore Health and Educational Foundation Board of Trustees. Dr. David Rudolph was elected medical staff president, having succeeded Dr. Stephen O'Connor.