The past year has been one of change as we worked to ensure Lewis County General Hospital and Residential Health Care Facility (LCGH/RHCF) is well positioned for the future. I am optimistic about the new changes and will continue looking for opportunities to strengthen our facility, control costs and maintain the level of services we provide.
Despite the demands placed upon us and the many changes taking place, we will not let anything diminish the quality of care we provide for the people of Lewis County. This would not be possible without the dedicated and compassionate doctors, nurses, employees and volunteers who collectively make LCGH/RHCF a leader in health care in the North Country.
The fiscal situation of our nation’s health care sector is constantly changing and is being adversely affected by the decreases in government reimbursement, increased federal and state regulations, the skyrocketing costs of medical malpractice and employee pensions, physician recruiting challenges, keeping state-of-the-art equipment and retaining competent staff. Like most institutions, Lewis County General Hospital is not immune to these issues.
The hospital’s Board of Managers and Administration are committed to seeing the Hospital through these financially challenging times and have already starting taking action. We have recently started the process of applying for a shift in the hospital’s designation from a Sole Community Provider to that of a Critical-Access Hospital. According to a review completed by Stroudwater Associates and LCGH administrators, this new designation could generate a $3 million annual benefit over the next few years.
Another positive change was recently made when the Board of Managers approved the addition of NES HealthCare, a new emergency department management group, and the Rural Physicians Group, a new hospitalist program, to support the work of our family practice and internal medicine doctors.
NES will begin their work on January 1, 2013, and help LCGH continue providing emergency medicine services. The new ED group will maintain collaborative relationships with local fire and ambulance services and will provide consistent emergency department coverage with a core group of physicians who are board certified/board eligible in emergency medicine, family practice or internal medicine. One of the primary areas of focus for NES is to decrease patient wait times in the ED.
The Rural Physicians Group will begin their work on January 7, 2013. RPG’s hospitalists will play an important role at LCGH as they coordinate the care of patients between different physicians and serve as a point of contact for doctors, nurses, patients and family members during a patient’s time in the hospital. This added service will help extend the primary care practices of our current doctors, which is important due to the difficulty recruiting and retaining doctors.
There are a number of other items progressing as we expected. Work with the Supervisor from the Town of Diana is ongoing and we still plan to operate the Harrisville Clinic once the New York State Department of Health gives the green light for the clinic to open. DaVita has signed a physician and we anticipate by spring 2013 bidding and contract awards for the project will be implemented, with construction expected to begin in April.
Earlier this year Hospice and Certified Home Health looked at the possibility of closing its doors. Fortunately that isn’t going to happen. Instead of closing, they will be moving to the Hospital family in January, keeping these important services available for the community. We look forward to working with the staff members to enhance both programs over the next year.
As we continue to improve our facilities at LCGH, we make every effort to be good neighbors and provide help outside our walls as well. Throughout the year, employees, patients, volunteers and affiliates participated in numerous community outreach programs and activities. These included blood drives, food drives, scholarships for local students pursuing a career in health care, and helping cancer patients through our Fund for Hope. We believe it is our responsibility to continue finding ways to support the great people of Lewis County and the surrounding communities we serve.
On behalf of the entire facility, I thank all of the medical staff, employees, volunteers, patients and their families for the continued support you give Lewis County General Hospital and Residential Health Care facility. By working together we will be able to navigate the rough waters and overcome the challenges that have yet to come.