Hospital outlines health needs implementation plan

Published 5:34 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

At the March 19 board meeting of Memorial Hospital and Manor, the board approved an implementation plan developed by the Community Health Needs Assessment Steering Committee, based on research and recommendations from the Georgia Southern University Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health.

It is a requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that all nonprofit tax-exempt hospitals complete a community needs assessment every three years to evaluate the health needs and assets of the community. Then they must develop an implementation plan to address those priorities and file it with the IRS, which regulates the act.

Twenty individuals were recruited from a wide variety of socio-economic groups and locations to serve on a community advisory committee. That committee, made up of elected officials, business owners, hospital volunteers and community volunteers, was in charge of distributing and collecting 400 surveys in Decatur and Seminole sounties. Of those, 324 were returned, for a response rate of 81 percent. Those two counties were the only ones surveyed, as 88 percent of patients served by Memorial Hospital in 2011 were from Decatur County and 5.2 percent were from Seminole County. Other surrounding counties represented a very low percentage of patients.

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Data collected was analyzed and 11 health-related community issues were identified, then prioritized by the steering committee.

1. Community image of the hospital (morale, turnover, wait-time)

2. Community health education (exercise, diet, tobacco usage)

3. Economic development (unemployment, poverty)

4. Access to healthcare (transportation, cost, issues affecting elderly)

5. Heart disease

6. Mental health

7. Diabetes

8. Issues involving youth (teen pregnancy, lack of recreational activities)

9. Cancer

10. Respiratory disease/asthma

11. Dental care

The summary indicated many participants believed this to be a safe, friendly, rural community, while noting the economic downturn in recent years has created a barrier to healthy lifestyles and access to healthcare. The prevailing issues were lack of employment, public transportation, entertainment and mental health services. Other adverse issues included a large uninsured population, illegal aliens, and chronic health conditions.

The resulting plan of action approved by the board focuses on health-related issues that could be reasonably addressed in an implementation plan. Such issues as transportation, unemployment and lack of recreational activities were deemed too far out of Memorial Hospital and Manor’s immediate control and were excluded from the plan.

Hospital CEO Billy Walker indicated the plan was to be addressed within the five pillars of operational excellence adopted by Memorial Hospital and Manor in FY2011 from the Baptist Leadership Group. They make up what is known internally as the “Bridge to Excellence.” Internal issues regarding community image, including employee morale and turnover are already being addressed through that initiative, and therefore were not included in the implementation plan.

The five pillars and the issues of the plan to be implemented under each pillar are as follows, and some of the issues are already being addressed.

People: To increase community leadership and health advocacy by encouraging employees and physicians to become mentors for middle and high school students; inform employees and community about legislative issues pertaining to healthcare and encourage advocacy to improve disease research and treatment; support disease research and services by participation in organized fund raisers such as American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

Service: To increase educational and information resources for disease prevention and awareness and promote early intervention of major diseases affecting the community by providing educational and informational resources for diabetes and other chronic diseases to at-risk individuals; provide free educational opportunities on childbirth, breast feeding and infant care; partner with civic organizations and others to provide health screenings, diet and exercise resources and recreational opportunities; provide speakers on health care; sponsor additional health fairs and free screenings to the community; sponsor half-marathons and other events to promote fitness; sponsor Camp Joy for disabled children; provide free athletic physicals for high and middle school students.

Quality: To increase access to quality healthcare resources and information for families, especially low-income and medically underserved individuals by providing extended office hours for adult and pediatric primary care services for better access to health providers and by utilizing suggestions and feedback from employees and patients.

Financial: To contain the increasing cost of healthcare while providing assistance to the medically underserved by accepting vouchers through the Georgia Farm Worker Association for services to farm workers; free care to individuals with incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level and discounted care to those with incomes below 250 percent of the FPL; provide free health screenings in disadvantaged areas in the county.

Growth: To increase organizational growth, as well as community growth for economic development by supporting the economic development initiatives of the Industrial Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County to enhance the overall community image and growth potential; continue physician recruitment efforts to reduce shortages in certain specialties; support employee involvement on community boards and charitable civic organizations; facilitate clinical learning opportunities for health occupations for high school, college, and medical students; provide scholarships for students in health care programs of study.

Editor’s note: The source of information contained in this article is a summary prepared by Jan Godwin, Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator at Memorial Hospital and Manor.