Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Georgia, sits in a quiet neighborhood near downtown. However, the hospital is abuzz with activity and the Biomedical Engineering Department provides the work behind the scenes that keeps everything running smoothly.
The hospital is a part of the Phoebe Putney Health System. It is a not-for-profit integrated health care delivery system that serves more than half of million residents in Southwest Georgia. The Phoebe family of facilities is comprised of more than 4,500 physicians, employees and volunteers caring for patients in 35 counties.
The flagship facility, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, is the region’s largest tertiary care provider. With hospitals in five communities, Phoebe offers a full spectrum of care for residents in the surrounding area, ranging from outpatient specialty services to some of the most advanced surgical, cardiac and cancer treatments.
The Phoebe Putney Health System includes four more hospitals, including Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital North Campus, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Phoebe Worth Medical Center and Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center. Phoebe also operates Phoebe Physician Group, a self-governing not-for-profit entity that includes clinic practices and hospital-based physicians throughout Phoebe Putney Health System. Phoebe Physician Group offers a wide range of medical specialties.
Other facilities and care centers located throughout Southwest Georgia include Phoebe Convenient Care Centers, Phoebe Family Care Center and other outpatient facilities that provide cutting-edge diagnostics and services throughout the region.
The system also serves the community with a variety of specialty centers including cancer care, digestive health/gastroenterology, heart & vascular care, orthopaedics and sports medicine, as well as a women and children’s center.
As a true not-for-profit community hospital, Phoebe is operated by a volunteer board drawn from the community it serves. Phoebe is constantly reinvesting in the health of Southwest Georgia through programs in prevention, education and research that go beyond the bounds of traditional medicine.
Bruce Verneau, CBET, is the director of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. He said his team works well together as it maintains more than 12,000 pieces of medical equipment within the health system’s six hospitals and more than 30 clinics.
His team is made up of talented individuals with a variety of experience. They are able to learn from each other and provide support for a wide range of projects. The team members who keep the system’s vital medical equipment up and running are Jason Misner, CBET, Supervisor; Tony McMillon, Imagaing Engineer III; Ralph Bischoff, BMET II; Ben Fletcher, BMET II; Jeff Covey, BMET II; Wilson Tolbert, BMET I; and Mark Peavey, BMET I.
Some of the most recent projects the department has completed include converting all pulse oximetry from Masimo to Nellcor technology. They updated, replaced and supplemented all monitors in the Phoebe Health System. The department also recently replaced all the defibrillators in the main hospital.
Each member of the department is cross-trained to be able to work on any device within the system.
“While we do have people trained on specialized equipment like anesthesia, ventilators, dialysis, and imaging, we do not have anyone dedicated to a modality,” Verneau said. “All of our technicians can go pretty much anywhere in the system to respond to a service call. Like most in-house departments, we are general practitioners with some specialty training thrown in.”
Patient safety is the number one goal for the Phoebe Putney Biomedical Engineering Department. The department also prides itself in its ability to help the hospital achieve cost savings.
“One of our sayings is ‘If we are not improving outcomes or decreasing cost, we are not doing our job,’ ” Verneau said. “We take possession of unwanted equipment and see if we can utilize it somewhere else within the system. If not, we offer it for sale to a list of equipment companies we have done business with in the past. That way we are not warehousing equipment that will never be used.”
One cost-saving tool is the department’s expert insights when it comes to equipment purchases. He said third-party equipment suppliers provide economical options for the health system.
“We are an active part of the capital acquisition process. In fact, Biomedical Engineering is the first department to receive all capital requests when they are first submitted,” Verneau said. “We utilize proven third-party service organizations when possible.”
The team concept carries over to interaction with other departments within the health system, including IT.
“We work very closely with our IT system analyst, who is responsible for the connectivity of patient care equipment to the Phoebe network. With our system-wide transition to Meditech EMR, we are having to upgrade some of our equipment,” Verneau said. “One of the biggest projects is upgrading all of our Alaris infusion pumps. That responsibility falls to our department.”
He explained that the department is an Aramark crew but that few people in the hospital realize that they are not hospital employees. He said everybody treats them like they are hospital employees and makes them feel welcome. After all, they are all on the same team working toward the same goal of positive patient outcomes.
The department members believe in training and remain up to date on the latest trends via a variety of educational offerings.
“A lot of our training is provided by Aramark’s Technology and Innovation Center in Charlotte,” Verneau said. “Some training is negotiated with the purchase of new equipment. We also have taken advantage of the educational offerings of organizations like HTMA-GA, MD Expo, GBIS, AAMI and NCBA.”
Overall, the Biomedical Engineering Department is made up of talented and knowledgeable biomeds who make a valuable contribution to health care in Southwest Georgia.
“We work hard to let others know that we are the resource when it comes to patient care equipment,” Verneau said. “Whether it is pre-purchase evaluations of equipment or manufacturers, proper operation and care (of a device), or help with disposal of unneeded equipment – we are the folks to call.”
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