South Baldwin Regional CEO talks vaccine rollout, hospital expansions

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 2/19/21

FOLEY - Eric Roach was appointed as the CEO of South Baldwin Regional Medical Center on Jan. 18. Recently he spoke at the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s first Leadership Series of the …

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South Baldwin Regional CEO talks vaccine rollout, hospital expansions

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FOLEY - Eric Roach was appointed as the CEO of South Baldwin Regional Medical Center on Jan. 18. Recently he spoke at the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s first Leadership Series of the year. During the presentation, Roach discussed the past, present, and future of South Baldwin Regional.

COVID

“Our mission has been two-fold since [the pandemic],” he said. “We want to take care of the COVID patients and at the same time we want to be able to take care of everybody else, because while we’re dealing with COVID, healthcare is 24/7, 365. We still have patients coming through our ER, we still have patients who need surgeries or some kind of imaging exam or lab exam … We really have a dual mission, to be ready for COVID and be able to service the rest of the community with their healthcare needs.”

Roach said as of Feb. 9, the day of the presentation, the hospital had 16 COVID patients in-house, a significant decline from the 40 COVID patients in-house when he was appointed CEO. In an effort to increase the decline, South Baldwin Regional has administered COVID vaccinations when supplies allowed.

“There is a shortage, we don’t have enough vaccines to take care of everybody, and quite honestly if we did we probably wouldn’t have the resources that we need to give the shots, so we are really having to ramp this up,” said Roach.

During January, the hospital conducted a two-day drive-thru clinic as a community outreach. The drive-thru was for those eligible for the vaccine within the first tier. Staff plans to continue these drive-thru clinics as supplies allow. Plans have been made to administer the second vaccine to those who received their first shot at the hospital. Further, first vaccines will be given out at future drive-thru clinics.

EXPANSION

South Baldwin Regional currently has 13 locations, with plans to further grow its network. Due to COVID, telemedicine has become a frequently used method to create new access points.

“It’s all about patient access,” Roach said. “We actually witnessed because of COVID, patients were afraid to go to the doctor. What we’re having to do is have telemedicine visits, and the key is we didn’t limit access. That is really a strategy for South Baldwin, to increase our access. In healthcare, if you’re not growing, you’re really in trouble, and one of the ways to grow is to continue to recruit and build your medical staff.”

Over the last year, Roach said the hospital has continued to recruit and employ physicians to grow its network. The hospital also increases its healthcare providers through its Residency Program, which trains future family physicians that the hospital hopes to retain within the community.

NEW FACILITIES

Significant growth is happening for South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. Last year, ground broke on the brand-new Freestanding Emergency Department, located next to Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores. The department will be 14,000 square feet, have nine exam rooms, a full complement of diagnostic imaging, lab services, and a helipad. It will be available 24/7 to serve patients who experience medical emergencies. Its anticipated opening is Spring 2021.

“It will service the residents of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Foley,” Roach said. “The residents that live in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores won’t have to drive to Foley to get these services … It’s going to create jobs, be good for the residents at the beach, and it’s going to help Foley because one of the things hospitals are really struggling with now is capacity management. This should help us spread out the patient care and help us become more efficient in Foley.”

The hospital in Foley will also see a major expansion, with approximately $150-$180 million in renovations and new-facilities coming. Ground is expected to break in January 2022 at South Baldwin Regional.

This will mark the largest building program in the hospital's history, and will include the addition of a 133,433 square foot, four-story patient tower. The tower will house a new surgical department with a new dedicated outpatient entrance, ten operating rooms including three with robotic equipment, a new endoscopy center, a new patient prep and recovery area and PACU. The tower’s second and third floors will contain nursing units, including a new, larger intensive care unit. The future fourth floor shell space can be built out to increase the bed count based on community need.

Existing spaces will see the addition of a new laboratory and an expansion of the existing pharmacy and dietary areas. The exterior of the existing hospital will be refinished to match the new construction. Parking areas for patients and staff will also increase by more than 50 percent.

“Foley’s going to grow as a result of this, and our hospital is going to become busier,” Roach said. “This is going to generate a lot of jobs for this county and this city, so that’s really something that I think everybody should be proud of.”

For those with questions about the vaccine, eligibility, and how to register to receive a vaccine, visit Alabama Department of Public Health’s portal at alcovidvaccine.gov.

For those interested in future drive-thru clinic’s at South Baldwin Regional, check out www.southbaldwinrmc.com or follow them on Facebook.

For information on upcoming South Baldwin Chamber events, visit www.southbaldwinchamber.com.