By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As administrator of Atmore Community Hospital, Brad Lowery has numerous responsibilities, including oversight of operations for the hospital and its satellite facilities and keeping an eye on the bottom line. But there are other responsibilities he feels are equally important.
One of those is informing the public that the local hospital is as modern as most other rural healthcare facilities and more modern than many, although the building in which it operates is decades old.
“We’re trying to get the public to understand as best we can that we do care,” Lowery said during a recent interview with Atmore News. “We have quality people here, and quality medicine is being practiced at this hospital.”
The 2010 Northview High School honor graduate, now in his third month as administrator of the local medical center, cited ACH’s therapy and radiology departments and its pain maintenance and control services, as well as the people who administer those services, as major areas in which the hospital excels.
He also pointed out that ACH has some modern equipment that matches up with any facility in the area, meaning numerous patients who travel to other, larger, cities for medical treatment don’t really have to.
“We don’t have advanced neurosurgery, but there are services we offer that we feel are very competitive,” he said. “A lot of people, when you tell them about our services, will say they didn’t know we offered that. There are a lot of things people in the community don’t know we have.
“We have a CT scanner that’s as advanced as any they have in Mobile or Pensacola. You’re not going to find another rural hospital in this area that has one. Those are the type of things we are trying to get out to the community. Even though it’s an older building, there are quality people here to offer quality services.”
Lowery, who graduated from Auburn University with plans to enter the Sports Medicine field, changed his plans and earned a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration for University of West Florida.
He served roughly 18 months as the local hospital’s director of operations, learning the ins and outs of the facility before being handed the administrative reins on May 1.
That period, during which he worked closely with Interim Administrator Suzanne McGill, served basically as an internship for the role he now has.
“I don’t know that there’s a ton of difference in what I’m doing now and what I was already doing, as far as responsibilities,” said the new head of the hospital, who said his management philosophy includes monitoring and learning about the various departments within. “As administrator, some of it is how you want it to be, and for me, it’s more operational. It’s really important to have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on. If you don’t, you are inevitably going to get blind-sided by something.”
One of the things that helped finalize his decision to return to Atmore is the familial feel among the people who man a small, rural hospital.
“I enjoy this role, enjoy the team we have here,” he said. “I feel that community hospitals in general, especially here, have more of a family feel. For good, bad or worse, I feel much more connected here than I imagine I would at a very large hospital. I know everybody from the janitor to the surgeons, and I enjoy that and think it’s important.”
Lowery expressed a special affinity for McGill, who is ACH Director of Nursing and who has served twice as interim director.
“Suzanne does a good job,” he said. “I don’t want to put one person above anybody else, but if I had to, Suzanne has been extremely supportive during this transition. She cares a good deal about this hospital and this community. She is a great person to work with and she takes it personally because this is her home.
“I try to really communicate with our physicians, but having her here, right down the hall, is huge to my role. She’s a very experienced, very knowledgeable and caring person to get a second opinion from.”
As Lowery, who currently lives in Pensacola, prepares for the construction of a new hospital that will mark the growth of healthcare in the community, he and his wife Kelsy will also see their family grow. The couple and their son, Easton, are awaiting the mid-August birth of a second son.
“If you have robust preventative medicine and screening programs, you can significantly improve the mortality rate and the morbidity rate,” he said. “That will start with us with the urgent care center (for which ground was broken June 29) and grow into the new hospital.”