Preventive care has many benefits

Posted on November 7th in News

Dr. Johnston presents findings to HDH board

By Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

At the Harney County Health District Board of Directors meeting held Wednesday, Oct. 24, Dr. Kevin Johnston said he has been working with a team since June to provide intensive case management and preventative care to a patient who has had health issues as a result of obesity. Johnston said, as a result of the team’s efforts, the patient lost 70 to 80 pounds and no longer requires full-time use of a wheelchair. Johnston also reported that the patient’s blood sugar levels have improved.

Johnston said the team is attempting to demonstrate that it is both healthier and more cost-efficient to focus patient care on prevention, rather than just treatment. In other words, it would be better for patients’ health and cost less money if doctors shifted their focus to working with patients to prevent illnesses, instead of just treating them when they occur.

Johnston said the team was not paid to provide the preventative care and admitted that costs would have been significant if team members were paid for their services. However, he said, without preventative care, the costs to treat the patient would have been significant within the next one to two years, as it is highly likely that the patient would have accrued multiple, long-term hospital stays and tremendous out-patient and caregiver costs. He said these long-term costs would have outweighed the costs of preventative care, even if the team was paid. Johnston added that, before receiving preventative care, the patient required a lot of costly assistance and resources that were in addition to medical expenses.

Johnston said some of the medical students who he has been working with may write a case study about the team’s success with providing preventative care to this patient.

Harney District Hospital (HDH) Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Barb Chambers said assisting the patient was “interesting and pleasurable.”

In response to the team’s findings, Board Chair Sam Caizza said, “This may be the wave of the future.”

CNO Chambers said HDH is ready to buy its ambulance and hopes to have it by Oct. 31.

She said HDH is also working on purchasing a second power lift stretcher to assist Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff. Power lift stretchers can be raised or lowered to the desired height with the push of a button, reducing the number of times that EMS staff are required to lift patients manually.

HDH EMS employee Jeff Sceirine said using a power lift stretcher has prevented a lot of injuries to EMS staff. He explained that the staff had a high rate of injuries resulting from lifting non-power stretchers, and these types of injuries have not occurred since the power lift was purchased.

Sceirine said the current power lift was purchased at a discounted cost of $12,000, but the average cost is about $15,000. Sceirine said he does not think that the second lift can be purchased at such a discounted price. For comparison, a non-power lift stretcher costs about $5,000.

In the previous meeting, held Sept. 26, the board decided to table the discussion of policies “Board Roles & Responsibilities” (policy 100.025) and “Membership on the Board of Directors” (policy 100.010) until the Oct. 24 meeting. However, Board Chair Caizza removed discussion of the policies from the Oct. 24 agenda because he said he would like to get more feedback from the Human Resources (HR) department and give board members more time to review the policies. Caizza suggested that the board table discussion of the policies until it meets for its retreat.

Caizza suggested that the retreat be held in January, but did not specify a date. The board agreed to hold its retreat in January and decided to determine the exact date during the next board meeting.

Caizza said the retreat will also give board members an opportunity to focus on strategic planning and determine whether the board’s mission is “in line” with the current direction of HDH. He said the board should also consider the factors that will impact the hospital’s future, and he requested input from HDH staff, including doctors, regarding other topics that should be discussed during the retreat. Caizza said he hopes to set an agenda for the retreat during the next board meeting.

In other business, the board:

• appointed Dr. Oleg Reznik to the HDH medical staff;

• heard from Dr. Johnston that, with the addition of Reznik and Dr. Sarah Laiosa (who will begin practicing full time in January), the HDH Family Care clinic may expand its hours. He said he would like to survey patients to determine whether they would benefit from having the clinic open earlier on weekdays and/or open on Saturdays. He said he would like to “expand the clinic’s availability so that patients don’t have to use the emergency room or other expensive care alternatives” when the clinic is not open;

• heard a report from Development Coordinator Denise Rose who stated that the hospital has almost filled all of its positions. She added that two new nurses and a certified nursing assistant (CNA) have been hired. “The staff is pretty robust now,” she said. Rose also reported that the hospital “took a clean sweep” in the Xi Delta Gamma Chili Cook-Off held Saturday, Oct. 20. She said the hospital won first place in the competition and received the people’s choice award. She said hospital employee Nikki Cross also won the apple pie baking contest. Some members of the board joked that Cross and other HDH staff members should cater the next board meeting;

• heard a report from HR’s Sammie Masterson who said that the department is working with HR Answers, an HR consulting firm, to develop an employee survey, which should launch in late October or early November and be sent to employees via email. She said the department decided to work with an outside company, rather than develop the survey in-house, because she thinks staff may be more open and honest when responding to an outside company;

• decided that, due to upcoming holidays, it will combine its November and December meetings into one meeting that will be held Dec. 12.

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