Southwoods Builds for Future with Pain & Spine Center

BOARDMAN, Ohio – When Ed Muransky and his team at Southwoods Health were developing the system’s new Pain & Spine Center, it wasn’t enough to ensure the center was good enough for today’s patients. It was key, he said, to make sure it could be adapted to needs years down the road.

“If you look at our facilities, all of them are interchangeable. The same rooms that are seeing spine patients today, if need be, I can have three general surgeons in tomorrow,” said the President and CEO of The Muransky Companies at the Pain & Spine Center ribbon cutting Thursday evening. 

The 40,000-square-foot medical center – part of the Southwoods Medical Building, which after the expansion is at 110,000 square feet – is the newest aspect of Southwoods and a new link in the continuum of care provided by the health-care system, offering office space for visits with physicians, medication management, four procedural suites and infusion therapy. 

With the Mahoning Valley’s aging population, combined with the fact that some 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, the Pain & Spine Center – a $10 million development – was the next logical step for Southwoods. The important part of development, Muransky said, was keeping it close by to other services. The system also operates Southwoods Surgical Hospital, Southwoods Imaging, Southwoods Center for Breast Health and Southwoods Sleep Centers.

“We don’t wait for, ‘What do I do next?’ We’re here to provide that next step in a logical and clinical fashion, so patients get the right care at the right time,” said Dr. Thomas Gemma, medical director of the surgical hospital and a pain management physician. “I can walk that patient under the same roof and get them to a doctor that day. That’s unheard of in this area and that’s an opportunity we have to be a gamechanger in how we deliver pain, orthopedic and spine care.”

That sort of model is something that’s been in place at Southwoods for some time, Muransky added, and something that has helped build confidence among patients.

“It’s extremely convenient because they’re not driving to five locations or to Cleveland,” he said. “Just like breast care where we can take someone from a mammogram to biopsy in minutes, the same thing is happening here. People that have chronic pain want help today. They don’t want another appointment.”

When he started Southwoods more than 20 years ago, Muransky said he had two goals: to create jobs and bring the level of care most often found in major cities – he usually refers to Cleveland and Pittsburgh – to the Mahoning Valley. On the jobs front, the Pain & Spine Center has a staff of about 150, including 15 doctors, bringing the health system’s total to just shy of 1,000. 

As for the care, nurse manager Margie Bretschneider said what’s available at the new center can help keep patients from driving more than an hour for care. 

“This is an area that has a big need for this type of care,” she said. “We have spine surgeons and all sorts of entities within our organization that can bring that care full circle. It saves the patient from going to Pittsburgh or Cleveland to do a small piece of it when we can do it all here.”

By and large, the medical field has shifted toward outpatient services rather than overnight or extended stays in a hospital for procedures, Muransky noted.

“Under this roof, and under the 110,000 square feet of the Southwoods Medical Building, it’s built for outpatient purposes,” he said. “The beautiful thing by luck – because I didn’t know this 23 years ago – is that everything’s moving to outpatient. Nobody wants to go to a hospital. Medicare doesn’t like people being in a hospital for a long time; they want in and out.” 

Beyond just spinal procedures, Gemma adds that pain management is a crucial link in the health-care continuum, especially in the midst of the opioid crisis. 

“We do a lot of dietary modifications and medication management other than opioids. Those are the things that are crucial in a successful pain program,” Gemma says. “Painkillers have become the last resort.”

With the new services available at the Pain & Spine Center – rheumatological and orthopedic offices are on-site, as well as care for fibromyalgia, herniated discs, nerve damage, neuropathy, chronic pelvic pain and arthritis, among other causes of pain – the focus at Southwoods is developing a system that can address all facets of care.

“Prior to getting a new knee or getting disc surgery, where you might need an MRI or surgery, you may need a procedure here for pain relief,” Muransky said. “It’s all interrelated.”

Pictured: Southwoods Health CEO Ed Muransky, Southwoods Surgical Hospital medical director Dr. Thomas Gemma and Southwoods chief operating officer Steve Davenport at the ribbon cutting for the new Southwoods Pain & Spine Center.

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