PINCKNEYVILLE – Tom Hudgins did not pick an easy task before he retires as Pinckneyville Community Hospital’s chief executive Tuesday.

Hudgins, along with more than 200 other employees and their patients are gearing up for their two-mile move to a new, roughly $30 million facility. Though stepping down, Hudgins will remain to help facilitate the move to completion

The move may come as early as late August if final state approvals are given on the building, barring any setbacks from a looming government shutdown.

Administrators hope to file for a Certificate of Occupancy next week. Once approved, they’ll begin planning the move, including coordinating with an ambulance company to help move patients, Hudgins said.

“It’s going to be interesting. I’ve done this once before, and the people that I did it with asked me if I was nuts for doing it again,” Hudgins said.

The relocation will mark an end to his 46-year career in healthcare as well as 13 years of planning the new hospital when he became CEO, 5383 Illinois 154. Succeeding Hudgins is Randy Dauby, who joined the hospital June 1 to begin the transition.

Hudgins said the building was needed to replace the current hospital that was built in two sections in the 1960s and 1970s with a focus on inpatient care. The space was ill suited for outpatient services, and the new structure will provide greater patient access as well as upgrades to the emergency room.

Services have shifted, particularly in 2002 when the public hospital became a Critical Access Hospital to take advantage of a Medicare change designed to preserve small, rural hospitals. The change allowed for 101 percent reimbursements on outpatient services.

The shift forced Pinckneyville and more than 50 other Critical Access Hospitals across rural Illinois down to 25 or fewer beds.

There has also been a shift of focus to outpatient care, Hudgins said, because improved technologies have led to less bed time, if any at all, for many surgical procedures, such as removing a gall bladder.

Patients in need of more complex, specialty surgeries are sent to hospitals with more experience in those areas, he said.

Improved wellness and preventative medicine is another piece of the outpatient growth, he said. Smaller, rural hospitals are also challenged by the need for inpatient volume to break even with the high cost of the care.

“So much of what can be done today can be done in an outpatient setting,” Hudgins said.

Construction and other expenses is being paid through a $22 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture and the remainder from the hospital’s cash reserves, all without impacting taxes, Hudgins said.

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Nick Mariano is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Saline, Franklin and Jefferson counties.

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