About two dozen community members gave up a sunny summer evening last Thursday to gather with governing board members and staff of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District for a discussion of SHCHD's strategic plan.
The SHCHD governing board reviews and updates the strategic plan each year. This year they decided to get the public more involved by holding a "World Cafe" style workshop.
The district began strategic planning in 2007, administrator Harry Jasper told the gathering. Following a public meeting, the 2007 board came up with a list of at least 50 goals.
Jasper emphasized the importance of priorities. "If we list 50 goals but don't fulfill the top three goals, nothing else matters," he said.
"We had a tough time finding only three top goals," Jasper admitted, "so we ended up finding four."
The overall mission, which was adopted by the board in 2010 is, "To become the healthiest community possible." The four goals prioritized by the board are: improve community confidence and awareness, develop a workplace that promotes patient and employee satisfaction, build and occupy a new facility by 2025, and improve utilization of technology.
Workshop participants sat at small tables, each hosted by a board member or member of the district staff. Following a presentation of the plan and its goals, each table discussed one of the goals, brainstorming their likes, concerns, the factors critical to success in reaching the goal, and additional ideas.
After a certain time, everyone moved to a new table dedicated to a different goal to add their comments.
Finally, facilitator Roger James asked each table to present its most significant findings, and participants added further comments.
Discussion of community confidence and awareness revealed that while people like the professionalism of the staff and the modernization of the clinic and hospital, their main concerns - continuity, consistency, and stability of care - were related to the lack of community-based doctors.
To succeed in establishing confidence, participants suggested not only hiring needed staff but also better communication between providers and patients, and between the district and the community.
They also felt that polarization in the community, described by one participant as "some people are tearing the district down while others are passionately defensive," needs to be resolved.
For the goal of employee and patient satisfaction, the principal "like" was that the district is seeking feedback through patient and employee satisfaction surveys. Participants also felt that the staff was getting better training, and that they are open, honest, and hardworking.
The major concerns were employee morale, turnover, and understaffing, and employees' feeling that they are not supported by the administration. Again, the lack of a full-time local doctor and consistency in care - patients getting to see the same provider - were high on the list.
The lack of an employee grievance committee and employees' "fear of providing input" were also of concern.
To succeed at reaching this goal, participants suggested learning what community factors, such as housing and quality of schools, affect staff turnover. Helping both employees and patients to accept necessary changes, such as new state and federal requirements, was also cited as critical for success.
Participants liked the goal of building and occupying a new facility because, as well as meeting California seismic regulations, it would be better adapted to modern technology and could provide better access, including more parking and possibly a helipad.
The concerns were how such a facility could be paid for, its location, size, and what services would be offered.
Community support with a "dollar sign through the ‘S' in support," would be critical for success, participants said. The district needs to research funding strategies and develop a design that will best serve patient needs and employee efficiency.
Additional ideas included green building and energy efficiency, a birthing room, and a healing garden.
In discussions of utilization of technology, participants agreed that much of the district's diagnostic equipment, especially in radiology, is out of date, but they disagreed on how far the district should go in employing new technology.
For example, SHCHD is considering adding a mobile CT scan service. One participant noted that if CT scans were available locally, local providers would order many more of them, not just for emergencies, which would increase costs to patients. CT scans are available in Fortuna and Eureka, she said, where patients with severe illness are likely to be sent for treatment even if they can be diagnosed locally.
On the other hand, the participants supported electronic medical records and were glad that the SHCHD was waiting to learn from the experience of other districts before choosing software.
Participants at a table dedicated to goals other than the top four also liked the increase in seeking public input. The district should pursue providing home health service, pediatric and well-baby clinics, and long-term health care, they said. To succeed, they suggested holding health fairs and quarterly meetings with other North Coast medical providers to adopt a regional approach to health care.
All this input was recorded and will be distributed to the participants either by email or postal mail within the next couple of weeks.
The SHCHD governing board will summarize the discussion at its regular board meeting on Aug. 30, and will complete its annual review of the strategic plan at the September board meeting.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA GRAZIANI
1. Community members participated in the review of the Southern Humboldt Community Health Care District's strategic plan at a workshop held last Thursday evening at the Garberville Presbyterian Church. The "World Cafe" format enabled lively discussion in small groups.
2. Each table of participants brainstormed their likes, concerns, factors critical to success, and additional ideas on one of SHCHD's goals at the strategic planning workshop.