The governing board of the Southern Humboldt Community Health Care District heard a brief presentation from telemedicine consultants and discussed several upcoming events and projects at an unusually short meeting last Tuesday, July 24.
Two key items, the financial report and the strategic plan report, were not on the agenda. A full financial report for fiscal year 2011-12 will be ready for review by the August board meeting. The usual strategic plan progress report is on hold until community input gathered at the July 19 strategic plan workshop is compiled and available for review. (See related article in our July 24 issue.)
At the start of last Tuesday’s board meeting, administrator Harry Jasper introduced a team from the California Telehealth Network (CTN), a statewide non-profit organization that provides broadband Internet access, training, and consultation to healthcare providers like SHCHD.
CTN president Eric Brown and five of his staff have been working with Jasper and SHCHD operations manager Kent Scown to get the district connected to the telehealth network, which will enable real-time consultations between patients, local providers, and out-of-the-area medical specialists.
SHCHD’s telehealth equipment is already onsite. CTN will be providing the broadband connection to make it work, along with training and assistance for implementation.
Brown and CTN executive director Kathy Chorba explained that CTN, a non-profit organization, has helped establish telehealth services at over 300 sites in "underserved" communities in California.
Sixty percent of these sites are rural, Brown said, and the rest are underserved urban areas such as South East Los Angeles and downtown Oakland.
Telehealth providers in CTN’s network include four University of California medical facilities, Stanford University, and other academic medical providers. Large private healthcare organizations like Kaiser and Sutter have expressed interest in joining.
CTN is funded by a long list of federal, state, and non-profit sources.
With CTN’s help, SHCHD’s telehealth system will be up and running by the end of 2012, and possibly as soon as the end of September, Jasper said.
New Doctor Arriving
In other news, Jasper reported that Dr. Marcin Matuszkiewics, who will begin working five days a week at the clinic on August 14, was in town for a day recently.
Dr. Matuszkiewicz came to the hospital and clinic to meet with the staff and to make final arrangements for his rental house in Garberville. He has recently completed his residency and has passed the California Medical Association board exams, as well as being certified by the American Board of Family Practitioners.
"He’s as excited as we are about starting next month," Jasper said.
The public is invited to meet Dr. Matuszkiewics at a mixer sponsored by the Garberville-Redway Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Aug. 10, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the courtyard between the hospital and the clinic. Refreshments will be provided. Families and children are welcome.
The Area 1 Agency on Aging (A1AA) will begin providing assistance to persons eligible for Medicare at the hospital next month.
A Medicare specialist will be on hand to answer questions about Medicare and assist with paperwork from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month, beginning Aug. 20, in the Dimmick meeting room in the hospital, the same room where the board holds its monthly meetings.
During Medicare’s annual open enrollment period in October and November, the Medicare specialist will be available on the first, second, and third Mondays. At this time Medicare recipients can change plans, add or drop services.
Strategic Plan Workshop
Although the results of the July 19 strategic plan workshop are not yet ready for review, board members agreed that the workshop was a big success.
Board chair Nancy Wilson said she was pleased with the community’s openness and the facilitators’ organization of the process. Comments captured at the workshop will be presented to the general public at the August board meeting, but participants should be receiving emailed reports within the next two weeks.
Board member Barb Truitt said the small group discussion format worked well and she hopes that this type of workshop will become a regular part of the strategic planning process.
"Of course, the proof is in the pudding. It depends on what we do with it," Truitt said.
One topic that raised questions among the public was the possibility of providing CT scans at the hospital. Jasper and others on the management team have been studying this possibility for many months, and have identified a mobile service that could work well at SHCHD.
During the workshop some members of the public expressed skepticism, feeling that this service is offered elsewhere in the county and having it available locally would mean CT scans would be ordered in non-urgent circumstances, increasing patient costs.
In addition to leasing the CT service, the district must also lease or purchase property to house it. Board member Gary Wellborn, who also serves on the finance committee, asked Jasper what would happen if the CT service turns out to be not feasible, not warranted, or not financially viable.
Emergency room statistics based on current referrals for CT scans indicate that, at a conservative estimate, the service would break even if the site was leased, Jasper replied. If the district has to purchase a site, costs would be "close to break-even," he added.
Once potential sites have been identified, Jasper will provide the board with an analysis of costs for each site and the difference between leasing and purchasing.
So far the estimates do not include additional revenue from increased admissions to the hospital or extended observations of ER patients who are now being sent elsewhere for CT scans.
"We can’t quantify the benefit to community members," Truitt said, referring to the cost of gas and "heartache" for those who must go elsewhere for this service.
One member of the public who was present said she would rather see the district spend its money on peri-natal and pediatric services. She asked if CT was "a done deal."
"No, no, not at all," Wilson replied. "Harry [Jasper] will get the information and we’ll absorb it and discuss it."
The SHCHD’s next monthly board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30, at 1 p.m. in the Dimmick Room at the Garberville hospital. The public is welcome to attend and time will be made available for public comment on both non-agendized and agendized matters.