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From left: Jake McWay, Karen Kramer, Steve Edwards and Dr. Tim Jones
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
From left: Jake McWay, Karen Kramer, Steve Edwards and Dr. Tim Jones

2020 Economic Impact Awards 75+ Years in Business Winner: CoxHealth

'Against the Grain'

Posted online

Since its 1906 beginning in a north Springfield duplex, CoxHealth has grown to include six hospitals and more than 80 clinics in its 24-county service area.

Despite economic downturns, the ever-changing realm of health care and how it’s administered during a pandemic, CoxHealth is growing. In 2019, the health system recorded revenue of $5.06 billion and today employs 12,544 people systemwide.

Steve Edwards, the system’s president and CEO, says its largest recent expansion project – Cox Monett Hospital – likely will open by winter. New concepts, called “superclinics,” are in various stages of completion in Nixa, Ozark, Republic and Springfield.

Edwards also notes that in addition to the 51-bed COVID-19 ward it sped to complete earlier this year, a 24-bed cardiac unit at Cox South recently opened and a 36-bed floor in the new tower should be complete by fall.

“Most of these construction projects have been put on hold by most hospitals, but we know when we get through this we will continue to grow,” Edwards says.

When the pandemic swept into the Ozarks, all but the most necessary medical procedures were put on hold. When confronted with empty clinics and hospital beds, many health systems opted to lay off employees.

Edwards likens the situation to seeing smoke on the road. Ultimately, Cox leadership decided to take a chance and drive through the smoke.

“We knew there was potential that we might need that staff, maybe immediately, and that turned out to be true. We’re hiring,” Edwards says.

Rather than laying them off, CoxHealth reassigned more than 350 employees to protect them – and the greater community – from financial hardship.

“If we made big layoffs, it would affect Springfield,” Edwards says. “We put all of that together and went against the grain. But as it’s turned out, I think it’s being rewarded. Volumes are up. We made money in May and anticipate we will in June.”

Edwards says commitment to the community is fundamental to CoxHealth’s guiding philosophies. The health system provides merit pay for community service; offers a charity of the month program that brings awareness to volunteer opportunities; helps feed the local economy via construction projects; and, of course, strives to improve the well-being of those who call the Ozarks home.

Edwards points to the various health challenges facing the region and paints a hopeful picture.

“I hope when we look back, our community has changed our trajectory and Cox made it a healthier community,” he says.

“I want us to be an organization that can shape the destiny of Springfield and our region.”

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