St. Lawrence County Chamber names Canton-Potsdam Hospital 'Business of the Year'
Monday, October 15, 2012 - 9:18 am

CANTON -- The St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce has named Canton-Potsdam Hospital, based at its main campus on Leroy Street in Potsdam, as the county’s 2012 Business of the Year.

“Canton-Potsdam Hospital provides patient-centered care in a compassionate and professional setting,” Chamber Executive Director Pat McKeown said in announcing the award.

“From doctors to nurses, lab technicians to dieticians, this hospital serves the community, its businesses and its people 24 hours a day. No one likes getting sick, no one likes to face surgery, no one likes to call for help, but in the case of illness or emergency, everyone likes to know there is an expert and caring staff at the end of the phone. We have that level of proficiency in Canton-Potsdam Hospital,” McKeown said.

The award will be presented during the chamber’s annual dinner Thursday, Oct. 18 at SUNY Potsdam, along with awards for Community Service and Volunteer of the Year.

The chamber solicits nominations for the Business of the Year Award, and makes its selection based upon criteria that include the nominee’s positive impact and creative influence on business and people of St. Lawrence County that has led to a better quality of life within the area.

The connection to community is what informs much of Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s work. With a nearly century old mission of providing “Caring Beyond Medicine,” the hospital’s stated mission is to “provide skilled, compassionate, cost-effective care that promotes wellness and meets community needs.” Its stated vision is “to be the best small hospital in New York State.”

All rests on a foundation of clinical care. “I’ll take this medical staff and put it up against any other,” said Canton-Potsdam Hospital President and CEO David Acker.

A strategic plan to fill in gaps has brought in more specialists, and hard-to-find primary care physicians.

Fewer medical students are attracted to primary care; those who are often go to urban hospitals rather than rural facilities. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are increasingly filling the primary care role across rural America, Acker said. Seeing this trend, Canton-Potsdam Hospital is working with Clarkson University and its physician assistant program to train the providers of the future, many of whom will gain experience at the hospital’s one-stop “medical home,” a new outpatient facility slated to open in 2013 on Lawrence Avenue in Potsdam.

Building upon its medical foundation, the hospital has simultaneously made a safe in-patient experience a priority rather than an afterthought – minimizing infections, falls, or post-operative pneumonia, for example. And a longstanding culture of “treating people well,” Acker said, remains intact. “If you look lost,” he said, “someone won’t just point out which way you should go – they’ll walk you there.”

“We want to drive the (health care) standards higher,” Acker said. Engaging staff at all levels and in all departments in doing just that means stressing that “they are participating in something larger than themselves, in making a difference in the life of this community that lasts not just until tomorrow, but endures.”

From 1925 to Today

Potsdam Hospital opened in 1925 with one full-time employee, and moved to its current site in 1932. The E.J. Noble Hospital opened in Canton in the 1950’s, and merged with Potsdam Hospital in the 1970’s, to become Canton-Potsdam Hospital.

Today, Canton-Potsdam Hospital employs 916 people – including more than 700 full-time employees and more than 65 physicians – making it one of the county’s largest employers. The hospital remains an independent non-profit facility, governed by a Board of 20 community leaders.

The main 94-bed facility annually serves a primary and secondary service area of 55,000 residents. Canton-Potsdam Hospital offers services at the main campus in Potsdam, the EJ Noble Medical Building in Canton (lab, imaging, physical therapy and after-hours primary care), 49 Lawrence Avenue in Potsdam (specialty physicians, physical rehabilitation), primary care clinics in Brasher, Canton, Potsdam and Norfolk, the Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University Student Health Services, and outpatient chemical dependency services in Norwood.

A full range of services is offered, including primary care, diagnostics (lab, imaging, cardiology) surgical services, 24-hour emergency care, inpatient care, obstetrics, radiation and medical oncology, a sleep lab, rehabilitation services, psychiatry, and inpatient chemical dependency detoxification and rehabilitation. In addition, more than a dozen separate physician practices are presently managed by the hospital.

While other community hospitals across the country have merged, closed, or downsized, Canton-Potsdam Hospital has been bucking that trend. They have operated in the black for each of the past five years, and continue to add staff, physicians, and services to meet identified community needs. In recent years the hospital has focused on and seen measurable improvement in six areas of excellence: service, quality, people, finance, safety, and growth.

The hospital notes the generous support from the community it serves: earlier this year it wrapped up a successful $3 million capital campaign in support of recent construction and renovation projects.

Three major construction and renovation initiatives have taken place in the past two years, including a 12,000-square-foot medical building adjacent to the E.J. Noble building in Canton; the renovation of the former St. Mary’s School building in Potsdam into physician offices and the subsequent completion of an addition there; and a 10,000-square-foot addition to the main campus in Potsdam.