From early August through early January, the Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors and the community went on a roller coaster ride of scary ups and downs.
For the past month, it has been eerily quiet.
On Thursday, March 1, at 5:30 p.m., Ozarks Medical Center officials, who now manage the hospital, will hold a "State of the Hospital" meeting to update the community on -- well, the state of the hospital.
"The state of the hospital night will be an educational session on things that are happening at the hospital, and a way for the community to hear firsthand what is planned," interim administrator Kim Thompson explained.
Beginning with the March 1 session, OMC plans to hold public meetings at the hospital every Thursday night in March and April. Each week the series, called "Health Matters," will offer a different topic as FCH and OMC speakers discuss health issues and treatment options.
At the Jan. 23 hospital board meeting, Thompson and OMC President and CEO David Zechman outlined a plan to begin advertising and promoting the partnership between Fulton County Hospital and OMC.
"We want people to know that we're working together, that we have a partnership here," Zechman told the board.
The promotion plan began on Feb. 10, when the hospital offered free health screenings to the community as part of Heart Health Month. Forty-four visitors came to the hospital for blood work to check cholesterol and glucose, and blood pressure and Peripheral Artery Disease screenings.
Besides offering participants the opportunity for early detection of risk factors and information on lifestyle changes to improve their health, the screenings brought people to the hospital for a non-emergency.
"People need to come in here and see how nice this hospital is, and what we have to offer," Thompson said.
That part of the plan seemed to have worked.
"Our employees distributed flyers in communities where they live," said John Sontag, who helped coordinate the event. "We had people travel from Cherokee Village, Mammoth Spring and Thayer for the screenings. We were happy to see them because those are areas where we would like to attract more patients."
OMC Education Manager Richard Ingalls said the screenings are part of the hospital's community service responsibility.
"The blood draws could cost up to $300 and the PAD test could be as high as $700," Ingalls said. "To save hundreds of dollars for health tests is a big benefit."
Tim Kimball, director of OMC Cardiovascular Services, directed the PAD testing. It involved checking blood pressure on both arms and on both ankles, using a doppler device.
"A big difference in the readings at the different sites could be an indication of circulation problems, and indicate a possible blockage," Kimball said. "With early detection, we can refer someone with possible problems to a cardiologist for further testing."
Kimball added one of the persons who underwent the PAD testing showed "classic symptoms," and was advised to seek further treatment right away.
"I noticed a flier at my doctor's office," Tina Thompson of Viola said as she received PAD testing. "I haven't had any blood work done in a year or so and, since I do not have medical insurance, it is a good way to get blood work my doctor wants done."
The blood work results were mailed out to participants on Monday, Feb. 13.
The health screening was Thompson's first visit to the Fulton County Hospital. "I've not been here before," Thompson said. "It's nice."
Kimball said he expects future health screenings to grow as they are offered at FCH. Screenings at OMC in West Plains regularly draw 150 to 300 people each session.
"As we get people in here, we can explain services we have to offer, and let people know we intend to be here providing services for a long time," Kimball said.
OMC officials hope to deliver the same message as they hold their weekly Thursday night meetings in March and April at 5:30 p.m.
March topics include: "Heart Care," on March 8, "Internal Medicine (Procedures and screenings at FCH)," on March 15. "Surgery and Orthopaedics," March 22, and "Physical and Speech Therapy," March 29.