Clark County’s only public, non-profit hospital, University Medical Center (UMC), faces many challenges. It serves the medical needs of Clark County, parts of California, Utah and Arizona, as well as millions of visitors. Las Vegas had a population of only 4,000 when UMC was established in 1931, but the metropolitan area is now home to almost 2 million people, with more arriving every day.
Lacy Thomas, CPA, is the chief executive officer of UMC, overseeing all administrative and clinical activities of the hospital. Thomas arrived at UMC in December 2003 from Chicago, where he served as the director of John H. Stroger, Jr. County Hospital of Cook County.
UMC is expanding with a $57 million, five-story, state-of-the-art tower, with completion expected in fall 2007. Thomas said the expansion will better accommodate patient needs, attract a more diverse payor mix and decrease the need for financial assistance from the county. “We are excited about the progress being made on the northeast tower,” he stated. “It will allow us to move our burn unit, increase our beds (in the Burn Care Center) from 15 to 26, and add 56 private rooms.” UMC currently has 588 beds.
UMC also operates 11 urgent care centers throughout Southern Nevada. Thomas said, “The emphasis of the urgent care centers is to provide a higher quality of care. Quick care provides access for those who do not have access to primary care. If necessary, the quick care patient will be referred to primary care.”
Patient records will soon be accessible through a program called Picture Archive Communication System (PACS). PACS enables doctors to view exams digitally from anywhere in the world. UMC has one of the largest and technologically advanced PACS networks in the country, according to Thomas. “When an X-ray is taken in the middle of the night, surgeons can go on the Web and look at it before they come to the hospital. It allows us to make a decision about patient care in a much more timely fashion,” said Thomas.
Another technological advancement, the EMSTAT electronic tracking system, is used to track a patient’s visit from registration to discharge, as well as to log items such as laboratory test results.
Thomas is responsible for creating the hospital’s budget, designed around the needs of the community. The budget is approved by the Clark County Commission, which serves as the board of directors for UMC. The past two years, UMC has come in below budget. “I am delighted with the support from the Clark County Commissioners,” Thomas said. On November 7, 2005, UMC will host a fundraising event: the First Annual UMC Carlos Henderson Charity Golf Tournament, at the Spanish Trails Golf and Country Club.
Like many healthcare facilities across the nation, UMC faces a nursing shortage and is making efforts to recruit and retain qualified healthcare professionals. “We need nursing instructors and encourage our master-trained staff to join the faculty,” stated Thomas.
Through the affiliation with the University of Nevada School of Medicine, UMC is Nevada’s major clinical campus, featuring several residency programs. A residency program in emergency care is expected to be added by 2006.
UMC operates Nevada’s only burn care center, and its trauma center is the only one in Nevada verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level 1 Trauma Center, the organization’s highest rating. In 2004, UMC was named in U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 50 best hospitals in the country in neurology and neurosurgery. “The hospital belongs to the taxpayers,” said Thomas. “We have done a fairly good job of inproving the jewel they have in UMC.”