One of those improvements was the complete renovation of the Emergency Department about four years ago. Recently, the Cardiac/Intensive Care Unit received the same treatment.

“We gutted the whole place,” Candio says. “Now, we have currently technology and a warm place for people to go.”

But it’s not just the surroundings that have kept patients returning to LMH and other Hallmark facilities for treatment. It’s the staff, many of whom are now providing new services never before offered in community hospitals.

Candio points to new gastroenterologist Dr. Enrico Souto, who has been with Hallmark for the past two years. With his advanced fellowship training, he is able to offer a specific procedure — endoscopic ultrasound — that is unique for a smaller hospital.

Additionally, Candio says the hospital now has cardiac intensive care doctors on staff around the clock for any patient, a new neurosurgeon who has been doing minimally invasive spinal work since he began about a year ago and a staff of nurses that has grown tremendously from an expertise standpoint.

“Our vacancy rate is below regional numbers,” she says. “The Boston Business Journal named us one of the top 50 best places to work and that means a lot to us because that’s our employees telling us that.”

Candio says many of the staff live and work in the community, which strengthens the bond between the two. And, she added, it means that staff members work hard to find programs and initiatives to put forth that will include the community.

“Our goal is to be a good citizen,” she says. “One way to reach into a community is to partner with the community.”

Which is exactly what Hallmark and LMH has done. Candio says a community advisory council made up of hospital personnel and community members meets monthly to exchange information and ideas about how to make LMH even better.

“People want to see us thrive,” she says. “And we want people to be open about how we can improve.”

Aside from obtaining feedback from the community, Candio says Hallmark has gone out of its way to get involved in the community with volunteers going out to partner with local schools and organizations.

That commitment has been recognized by both the community as well as city leaders, who have formed relationships with Hallmark to improve services. In April, Hallmark was given the first Executive Director’s Award for excellence from the Medford Chamber of Commerce.

And, just last month, Hallmark employees pitched in during a power failure to bring elderly residents to LMH so they could be cared for away from rising temperatures until electricity was restored. Those actions were lauded by residents and city officials as well.

New programs kick off

With community hospitals constantly battling bigger Boston facilities as well as each other for patients, Candio says it’s important for LMH and Hallmark to continue to expand services for area residents.

Earlier this year, LMH was designated as a stroke center through the state Department of Public Health after meeting tough criteria. The hospital was also designated as a center of excellence for bariatric surgery, something less than 225 hospitals nationwide can boast.

Hallmark has also instituted a bone and joint replacement program, which follows patients from pre-surgery to post-surgery and beyond to help them make the transition to caring for themselves and their new joint.

Another unique program is the medical geriatric psychiatric program, which treats elderly patients with medical problems in addition to their psychiatric conditions.

“The nurses are specially trained not only in psychiatric illness, but medical illnesses as well,” Candio says, adding that the hospital also provides a transitional unit for patients who need special care during the day.

Additionally, Hallmark is also updating its technology to include electronic medical records that can be easily accessed by caregivers and converting to clinical online documentation, which will allow data about a patient to be input on the spot.

“The goal is to provide easy access to providers so they can look up patient information right away,” Candio says. “There are very strict privacy regulations and protocols in place and there are multiple levels of back up to protect information should the system go down.”

With consumer numbers steadily rising, Candio says Hallmark isn’t ready to rest on its laurels. There are still many services and improvements on the horizon.

“Right now we’re really into the technology,” she says. “We want to work with our physicians to do computerized physician order entry. That will allow our physicians to go online and enter all their orders for patients.”

She says there are also plans to look into expanding neurosurgery and the types of procedures being done as well as further developing a pain management program through the anesthesia department.

And, she adds, there’s always continued upgrades to the infrastructure at LMH and the addition of new services, such as the opening of the new outpatient center in Reading.

“It’s very important for people in the community to know that we’re here for them,” Candio says, of the overall message Hallmark is trying to get out to residents. “Our goal is to be good citizens and meet the needs of the community. We want to be good listeners and take any ideas that the community may have. People like to go into town for things — the best doctor, the best care — but they have those things right here, in their own back yard.”

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