Hospital Plans on Expanding Oncology Services

SOMC President Forsees Day When Cancer Patients Never Have to Leave Area
By RICK MELLERUP | Jun 18, 2014
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The Southern Ocean Medical Center reached new heights last year when it opened its new Emergency Department on Aug. 29, more than tripling its size from 8,800 to 29,000 square feet, increasing the number of private patient bays from 22 to 42 and including a fast-track area, a behavioral health area and the Martin Truex Jr. Pediatric Care Center.

Needless to say, the ED expansion was, far and away, the biggest item on SOMC’s plate in 2013, soaking up much of the time, talent and money of the hospital’s supporters. Some 59 percent of the Southern Ocean Medical Center Foundation’s financial contributions for the year, for example, went to the project.

But SOMC President Joseph P. Coyle, speaking at a reception for some of the foundation’s donors last Thursday evening, said the hospital hadn’t ignored other areas while planning and building the ED. Nor is SOMC going to rest on its laurels.

“We’re building on the success of the Emergency Department expansion,” he declared.

The hospital, said Coyle, is now a nationally accredited Primary Stroke Center. A specially trained team can quickly diagnose a stroke and administer the proper medications. If even more specialized treatment is indicated, patients can immediately be transferred to the Stroke Rescue Center at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center that is, like SOMC, a part of the Meridian Health system. Speed is of the essence, said Coyle, when dealing with a stroke.

“Time,” he said, “is muscle.”

SOMC, along with all Meridian hospitals, recently earned the highest designation with Chest Pain Center Accreditation by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

“Did you have a heart attack? Our goal is to have the patient diagnosed within 60 minutes,” said Coyle, “and, if necessary, get you up to Neptune (where the Jersey Shore University Medical Center is located). An ambulance is called before the diagnosis is complete (better safe than sorry).”

Thanks to Meridian’s computer system and SOMC’s imaging capabilities, doctors waiting at Jersey Shore will know what they are dealing with in advance.

“Your anatomy can get to Jersey Shore before you.”

If those first two improvements are related to emergency care, other SOMC advances are spread throughout its Manahawkin campus.

“We have the second largest bariatric center in New Jersey,” said the hospital president. “It isn’t just surgery; we provide pre-surgery assessment and post-surgery help.”

The SOMC Bariatric Center has performed thousands of procedures and the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has declared it a “Center of Excellence.” Indeed, it is so renowned that it recently was the first hospital in the Garden State to hold a lap-band live surgery educational program, attracting physicians from around the country.

If follow-up is important after bariatric surgery, it is absolutely essential after a heart attack or cardiac procedure. SOMC, said Coyle, has a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, an intensive 12 weeks of carefully monitored exercise, education and counseling, all under the direction of a board-certified cardiologist.

SOMC’s orthopedic surgeons have also been busy.

“We had a fair number of joint replacement surgeries,” said Coyle, who added the hospital is also proud of its Geriatric Fracture Program, designed to return elderly patients who have fractured their hips to timely function while minimizing complications.

Southern Ocean County has a large senior citizen population so it isn’t surprising SOMC would be especially interested in strokes, myocardial infarctions, joint replacements and hip fractures, things that are more likely to afflict the elderly than the general population (although young people, too, are susceptible to strokes and heart attacks). Cancer, too, is more likely to strike as you grow older. Which is why, Coyle said, the hospital’s current main focus is on expanding its oncology services.

“I’m really excited about our oncology services here at the hospital,” said Coyle. “We have three oncologists on staff. We participate in research protocols. We have infusion therapy. We have radiation oncology right here on campus.”

Coyle pointed out that Meridian Health is the only system partner with the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, which means SOMC patients can be connected with exciting research options (clinical trials).

“When we round out the team, you won’t have to leave Manahawkin,” said Coyle.

If SOMC can build its oncology department it will not only make things easier for patients (because traveling to Fox Chase in Philadelphia or Sloan Kettering in New York is difficult for those dealing with the side effects of cancer treatments) but loved ones and caregivers who have to transport and visit them.

SOMC has dramatically changed since it opened in 1972 as Southern Ocean County Hospital. It only had 54 beds and 17 physicians at that time; it now boasts 176 beds and 230 physicians representing over 40 specialties. Still, it maintains its original focus of serving the community.

“We’re a community hospital in the best sense of the word,” said Coyle.

In other words, the core of SOMC is still personal and compassionate care. The hospital’s affiliation with Meridian should assure SOMC never loses sight of that core. In 1998 Meridian was the first healthcare system in the United States to achieve Magnet nursing status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Needless to say, if SOMC is to continue expanding services while maintaining its personal touch the hospital will need money. The reception’s attendees were introduced to a number of gift-giving options.

The evening ended on personal, compassionate, note. Hartley and Marie Field both passed away last December within a week of each other and remembered SOMC in their wills. Deborah Allen, executive director of the SOMC Foundation, said they had been “incredibly involved” in the founding and operation of the SOCH Auxiliary’s “Old and New Shop” on East Bay Avenue in Manahawkin. They also, she, said, “left a very generous gift to the hospital.”

Unable to thank the Fields, Allen thanked their daughter, Pat Cornell, who was at the reception with her husband Jim.

Cornell teared up and was unable to address the crowd as she was handed a plaque of recognition. Afterward, she told The SandPaper, “My dad donated 17,000 hours of volunteer service and Mom was president (of the auxiliary) for 10 years. This hospital was their life.”

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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