BELLE GLADE — The Belle Glade City Commission heard a report from Palm Beach County Health Care District CEO Darcy Davis at its recent meeting, intended to dispel rumors and give city officials an update on recent developments at Lakeside Medical Center, the full-service public hospital serving the Glades communities.

Ms. Davis brought a contingent of district officials with her to the meeting Monday, May 21, including Karen Harris, vice president of field operations; Stephanie Dardanello, administrator of Lakeside Medical Center; Dr. Belma Andric, the hospital’s new chief medical officer and executive director of clinic services; and Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, director of emergency services for the hospital.

“I wanted to first of all respond to your request to have us here and quell some rumors but also provide some background and tell you what’s going on, because a lot of times some things get blown out of proportion due to lack of communication,” Ms. Davis told the commissioners.

She ran through a Power Point presentation about all the services that the district provides, which include the C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics that used to be operated by the county Health Department. “The Health Care District inherited four, and now we have 10, including one here in the Glades.” Ms. Davis added that the district operates the Edward J. Healey Nursing Home, which is next to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Riviera Beach, and employs all the school nurses in Palm Beach County, who number about 250.

“And then health coverage — we provide coverage, specialty coverage, hospital coverage, trauma care; we help provide funding where those who don’t qualify for other payer plans are eligible. And trauma services … we own and operate the Trauma Hawk, but also we operate the trauma agency for Palm Beach County,” Ms. Davis said.

She described Lakeside as a “70-bed, beautiful facility, built in 2009. It is the only rural teaching hospital in the state, which a lot of people don’t realize that, because we have a family practice residency that we’ve been committed to.”

By the numbers, she said: “In 2017, Lakeside saw over 34,000 patients; admissions, about 2,300. Outpatient visits and then the emergency room, which is almost the front door of the hospital, we saw close to 25,000 visits in our ER — that’s a big number; did 802 surgeries; had 447 babies delivered; and we have 347 employees. This past year we hired a new administrator, I introduced you to Stephanie; a new hospital medical director, Dr. Padron (who was not present); and then also Dr. Scheppke.

“But one of the biggest things we did, and this is where some of the change started and people began to get, ‘What is going on over there?’ One of the biggest things we did is we changed our emergency-room group. Before, they were family practice docs working in the emergency room. That is very, very different than what we brought in, which are board-certified ED Group physicians.”

Dr. Scheppke explained: “I am dual board-certified in the fields of emergency medicine and EMS — that is the subspecialty of emergency medicine that oversees fire-rescue; there’s only 600 of us in the nation. Darcy tasked me with bringing together basically an elite group of emergency physicians, all residency-trained, board-certified in the subspecialty of emergency medicine, something Lakeside has never seen before, to come out here and provide emergency care and raise the ability for critical care in our emergency department.

“So we did, we brought together not just board-certified emergency physicians, but each one of these physicians is a top board-certified physician. Every single one of them is a former chief resident when they went through training; that means they were at the top of their classes; every single one is also either a current or a former medical director of an emergency department. And that becomes very important as we interact with the rest of the healthcare field, including EMS and the hospitals back east that have some of the subspecialty stuff that we don’t yet.

“The philosophy we go by is that we make every single process for ourselves because we are all the patient. And that’s the way our philosophy is with Elite Medical Services, and that’s what we bring to Lakeside,” he finished.

Ms. Davis listed a number of other improvements the district is making, including consolidating services on the Lakeside campus, with added pharmacy and behavioral health services, plus the existing primary care clinic and dental services “all under one roof, so that there’s a one-stop shop … for less acute (care).

“We’re here to stay. This is not us shrinking, this is us further investing in this community and in this hospital. We’re one of the largest employers and we’re proud of that. We continue to want to invest in their training, education and bringing on the very best of the best. There should not be a lesser level of care out here than everywhere else, and we firmly believe that,” Ms. Davis concluded.

Mayor Steve Wilson responded: “Any time an agency is going through changes, it does bring people to be skeptical. And when you’re skeptical, it becomes a concern. And concern brings on a lot of questions and rumors, and the rumors can be facts or fiction. And tonight, we know the facts. Thank you so much.”