By Aaron Edwards, MHPA, CEO and Richard Garcia, DO, ABFM, Chief of Staff
Spring appears to have sprung here in beautiful Ferry County and its time to update you on the state of the District. It’s been a while since my 11/18/17 Op Ed where I updated on our heating system issue and would like to update you on that along with several other items. I am also joined by our Medical Director and Chief of Staff, Dr. Richard Garcia, who will give you a glimpse into what our medical staff is working on (some very exciting things!). First let’s talk overall District happenings:
- What’s the status on the HVAC Issue (hospital heating and cooling system)? – As you know we had another snowy and cold winter which created challenges for our system. This winter we received help from the Department of Health, State Fire Marshall, and the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) through a waiver allowing us to heat our spaces using oil space heaters under very strict precautions which were taken very seriously. Meanwhile, Senator Short and I battled with the DES to hold the original contractor’s feet to the fire to force work on needed updates and corrections to our system. We hope those corrections and additions will be implemented this summer ahead of winter. Senator Short was also able to secure State capital funding for incidentals which are certain to occur during repairs. This remains a fluid and ongoing complicated issue that frequently demands my attention. I can say I do believe we are making progress. I will update through our regularly scheduled Board meetings as developments occur (we have a standing report on the issue at every meeting – as well as many other topics discussed in this writing).
- What’s the status on the Curlew Clinic? – The Curlew Clinic continues to remain closed as financially we are not in a position to return. We have had no correspondence/negotiation with our former landlord since our September 2017 closure and therefore no updates on the former clinic building beyond what was discussed in our last public meeting held at the Curlew Civic Hall.
- Where are we financially? – After a very rough 2017 we are currently in the black (though April). This is in part due to a significant one-time payment from the Department of Revenue for years of overpaid business and occupation taxes and an incentive payment from the state for use of our electronic medical record system. Without these payments we would be showing an overall loss. On a positive note, we have seen increases in utilization in several areas across the district in March and April which should help us to a little more solid financial footing soon. We thank our community for trusting us with their care; without their support we could not continue. We have a long way to go to be where we want to be.
- Where are we with staffing challenges? – Most of you know staffing a hospital, clinic, assisted living facility and rehab clinic is a monumental challenge in a rural area let alone an urban area. Some quick numbers, 77% of rural counties across the nation are considered “Primary Care Professional Shortage Areas” and 9% of these counties don’t even have a single doctor in them hospital or clinic (source = National Rural Health Association)! I am proud to say we now have three board certified physicians Dr. Bacon, Dr. Garcia, and Dr. Rattray (actually all current providers in our facility are board certified in their respective fields – this has not been the case until very recently). This is largely due to the changes we made last fall moving to our block schedule which has made us much more attractive to providers during a time of extreme shortage across the nation. These three doctors also support our four board certified providers in our clinic (Mari Hunter, ARNP, ANCC; Jane Jacobson, ARNP, AANP; Jodi Petersen, ARNP, AANP; and Craig Christopher, PAC, NCCPA). Our emergency department and hospital has been fully staffed by our own providers since April 2017 (in years past we have had to rely on locum staffing month in and month out). Our block staff consists of Dr. Garcia, Dr. Bacon, Dr. Rattray, Jeannette Bauer, ARNP, AANP; and Jim Corbett, PAC, NCCPA. I am also proud that under the leadership of Cherie Hanning, MN, CNO (Chief Nursing Officer), this May will be our first month in years where we have been able to staff our hospital with our own nurses and nurses’ aides without the help of outside agency staffing firms! Our rehab department anchored by Amanda Chilvers, DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), has seen almost double the patient’s year over year to start 2018 and has welcomed new physical therapists Laura Martens, DPT; Marsha Snow, DPT; and Amanda Grumbach, DPT. This has allowed us to significantly improve the “swing bed” program (rehab in the hospital post-surgery, etc.). These hires also moves us away from reliance on outside agency staffing as well which is a cost savings and, more importantly, better for a culture of teamwork and excellence. Last we are lucky enough to have had Brant Truman, MHPA (Master of Health Care Policy and Administration), join our administrative team in the position of COO and CFO. He is currently hard at work leading us on improvement projects around a examining all of our charges for appropriateness and other revenue related projects (more on our charges and pricing soon). With that I will turn it over to Dr. Garcia….
Medical Staff has been hard at work reviewing priorities across all medical services at FCPHD and is working on some exciting updates:
- For our emergency and hospital services we are working hard to maintain and improve our care and treatment modalities. We are updating our inventory to make sure we have the best equipment for any emergency. We are updating and reviewing our protocols to ensure consistency and quality of care. We are also working to improve safety standards through increased training for all of our providers working in the hospital and emergency room (emergency OB training, revamps with our stroke and chest pain protocols, and extensive peer review of past cases).
- Our long term care services now include Craig Christopher, Jane Jacobson, and myself to provide quality care to our residents. We hope this increase in provider coverage for our long term care residents will bring even more attention and focused care to our residents.
- In our clinic we are prioritizing improvements and services for patients with and at risk for diabetes, tobacco abuse, and hepatitis C. As updates in medicine and treatment options become available it is important to maintain education for both providers and patients for the best outcomes. We are incorporating didactics (medical teaching), open table discussions, and are developing tools and aids that will assist our clinicians to make sure our patients are getting the most up to date and effective treatments available. We are working on forming a diabetic team to assist our providers and patients to stay on track and in goal. Dr. Bacon and Rattray are initiating a hepatitis C program that will allow our selected providers to provide up to date effective treatment and testing for our hepatitis C patients. We are also creating awareness and promoting lung cancer screening in our smokers aged 55-80.
- We are also working on applying for a grant to assist our facility in implementing an opioid reduction program using prevention methods, treatment strategies, and recovery programs. While we have worked on some initiatives and are following the state and national guidelines more resources will be critical in making an impact.
Again, Dr. Garcia and I can’t thank you enough for supporting our District through trusting us with your healthcare needs! We can’t achieve our mission to “strengthen the health and well-being of our community through partnership and trust” without you! Our commitment to you is to lead the District towards a culture that promotes excellence in care and service.