AYER -- Since Sal Perla took the helm as president of Nashoba Valley Medical Center, he has met with 11 local town administrators and numerous EMS services to learn about the communities the hospital serves.
"It's really important that we stay connected with our local EMS services to make sure we are serving their needs," explained Perla, who has been conducting an ongoing needs assessment. "For example, in Lunenburg, we will be doing an expanded ambulatory center."
Perla came to NVMC from Milford Regional Medical Center where he served for 13 years, starting out his tenure there as administrative laboratory director, having a background in clinical lab science.
After growing the lab part of the business, bringing in robots and the latest technologies, the hospital gave him a business development role where Perla initiated large-scale programs, including expansions in the rehab centers, bringing Dana Farber on campus and overseeing a facility-wide expansion.
Perla was then promoted to vice president of clinical and support services of the hospital, a role he spent the last five years in before joining NVMC in January.
Perla explains that his new role as president of NVMC was a natural progression for his career, plus it afforded him the opportunity to work in the community where he lives.
"My last job was difficult because I lived so far away," he said.
Perla is already known for his energy and enthusiasm at NVMC. In the six months he has under his belt, he has already accomplished several short-term goals he set for the hospital.
One was the establishment of the hospital's new Center for Weight Management, which is now open to the public, and utilizes the OptiFast Program. The program is a patient-centric, medically supervised weight-management program in which participants report an average 50 pounds of weight loss in 18 to 24 weeks.
Under Perla's administration, NVMC became the first Steward Hospital to partner with local fitness centers in order to offer its weight-loss center patients special discounts, wellness assessments and even personal training sessions. Anytime Fitness in Devens and Orchard Hills Athletic Club in Lancaster are two of the partnerships that Perla forged to benefit patients at the new Center for Weight Management.
Another short-term goal of Perla's was to expand primary-care services at NVMC. He has accomplished expansions in primary care with the recruitment of a dozen new doctors in internal medicine, in addition to bringing on board more specialists in neurology, otolaryngology, gastroenterology and cardiology services.
Perla says the largest issue for him at NVMC is raising community awareness.
"People do not know what medical services they have right in their own community and they drive to Boston to get services that are actually right here," he said. "This is by far my biggest challenge, and I have a comprehensive plan to improve communications regarding our various service lines."
Not only is NVMC a full-service community hospital, said Perla, with a top notch emergency department, ICU and surgical and rehabilitative services, it boasts the region's largest accredited diabetes and endocrine center that serves hundreds of patients a week for pump therapy and various treatments.
NVMC also has a new $5 million geriatric psychiatry unit that serves patients 55 and older who have a primary diagnosis that is psychiatric related. The center includes 16 beds, a sensory therapy room and hallways that double as a walking path for seniors.
In addition, Steward just signed an agreement with Dana Farber so that NVMC now has a full-service oncology program affiliated with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"There are many service lines at the hospital that impress me. If I had to choose one department to highlight, it would be our emergency department," said Perla. "We have the lowest wait time in the region with most patients being seen, in and out, in 90 minutes or less."
NVMC's emergency department is a specialized treatment facility with a team of board-certified emergency physicians who care for both adults and children with illnesses or injuries. There are two behavioral health clinicians available in the ED to conduct emergency mental-health crisis evaluations. The current ER wait time is posted live on the hospital's website at nashobamed.com.
"What impresses me most about NVMC is that the people here are amazing," said Perla. "The nurses, doctors and support staff are so committed. They go over and beyond their call of duty for our patients."
Just announced on Aug. 7, NVMC is the first hospital in the region to acquire the Olympus EVIS EXERA III video endoscopy system. This advanced imaging and magnification system enables physicians at the hospital to detect GI tract diseases, such as colon cancer, at an earlier stage, when treatments are most successful.
Another major investment for the hospital, which has not yet been announced to the public, is the new CT scanner that utilizes iDose technology. This high-tech scanner enables technicians to adjust the radiation based on a patient's body mass index, allowing for clarity of image but reducing the radiation exposure for the patient.
"In addition to our recruitment of new medical staff and state-of-the-art technologies, we are excited to announce that we will be doing a cosmetic upgrade to the hospital, including hardwood floors and new ceilings," said Perla.
His long-term goals for the hospital are currently under development. Perla has established a Strategic Planning Oversight Committee comprised of doctors, nurses and community members to work together on the long-term plans for NVMC.
"What I want the community to know about me as CEO of this health-care region is that I am a clinician and I truly care about each patient's experience here," he said. "Every patient that visits our emergency department gets a card from me with my phone number on it. I also visit with every patient who stays inpatient at NVMC before they are discharged from the hospital. I want to know how they are feeling and hear all about their experience in the hospital."
Perla said 99 percent of patients report a positive experience.
To help keep the community up to date on all the latest developments at the hospital, NVMC posts updates daily on its Facebook page.