MOUNT GILEAD — After five months of meetings, guest speakers, and digging into volumes of healthcare information and documents, The Morrow County Healthcare Initiative Citizens group (MC-HIC) unanimously approved recommendations for the Morrow County Hospital Board and the Morrow County Commissioners.

As the group came together for its last meeting June 14 they quickly completed the assignment given to them as a result of the legal settlement agreement between the Commissioners and Hospital Board.

The group agreed on all but one major point in their recommendations and included the dissenting voices in their third and final draft.

The first objective was to analyze the current state of healthcare in Morrow County and include a five-year plan.

The committee’s first recommendation was for “a thorough, unbiased review” and the development of a strategic healthcare plan with measurable goals and objectives.

Strategies are:

• Establish a Health Advisory Committee with representatives from resources already in the county including: Healthcare providers, Hospital, Health Department, Park board, EMS, Schools, private businesses including fitness centers and other groups and agencies.

• Encourage residents to take responsibility for improving and sustaining their own health.

• Engage residents to use local healthcare services.

• Use local communication networks to help Morrow County patients navigate the healthcare system.

• Expand recreational opportunities to help promote healthy lifestyles.

• Leverage financial grants and resources as well as public/private partnerships.

• Attract good-paying jobs with healthcare benefits to the county and strong economic growth within the county.

• Increase public transportation and improve broadband access across the county.

“The Commissioners and the Hospital Board must put aside past differences and work together to find the best solution for county residents.”

The committee recommends:

• Joint, public meetings twice a year to improve communications.

• Complete transparency and accountability with the community. All hospital board and commissioners meetings should be recorded for public access.

• Commissioners should appoint at least one Hospital Board member who is a medical professional.

• Transparent and frequent communication with hospital employees and the community.

• Roles and responsibilities in Ohio Revised Code 339 must be followed. Commissioners appoint the Hospital board and need to stand behind their appointees and trust them to make educated and informed decisions. “We should be Team Morrow County.”

The second objective concerning the hospital’s management agreement was the one point of disagreement for the committee.

The committee spent a lot of time discussing how to move forward. Four members of the group recommend that a new Request for Proposal (RFP) be conducted. An Organizational Discovery Process (ODP) was also an alternative suggestion that was preferred by three members of the group.

Loren Altizer, Carol Lessick, Eddie Lou Meimer and Jennifer Williams recommend a new RFP be submitted to several healthcare systems because they believe a fresh look is needed since three years have passed since the last RFPs were submitted.

They believe it is important to have several health systems consider partnering with Morrow County Hospital with consideration to what healthcare services are needed within the county.

Committee members Donna Carver, LeAnne Gompf and Lois Stauffer do not want to have an RFP and state their differences in the draft of recommendations. They believe the RFP that was accepted from OhioHealth by the Hospital Board in 2019 is still valid.

All committee members believe that a discovery process could help identify options for future organization vision and direction and maintain stable leadership for the hospital.

If an organization discovery process occurs the committee recommends 11 procedures.

• Several recommendations are involved with changes in organization structure.

• It is recommended to keep as much local control as possible of the current hospital facility and services while providing quality healthcare options.

• Expand outpatient care, including emergency care, urgent care and specialty services.

• Prioritize increased access to primary care, behavioral health, women’s care (GYN), pediatrics and chronic disease management programs.

• Make data-driven decisions about the best place for patients, whether local or within a larger system for complex care.

• Implement rebranding and marketing campaigns to increase community awareness and use of the Hospital.

The third objective for the committee recommendation is to keep a close watch on a new hospital category that is to begin Jan. 1, 2023. It may be a possible transition for Morrow County Hospital.

It is called Rural Emergency Hospital (REH). The committee listed five details they had learned when they researched this new hospital designation that will be set up by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Going forward

The emphasis of the group is on looking forward to future growth and improvement for healthcare in the county. A complete copy of the recommendations will be delivered to each commissioner and board member. The group agreed that it would be good to have both commissioners and board members have a joint meeting with members of the committee if there are any questions or clarification needed.

Williams and Stauffer worked on drafting the recommendations with the committee making edits and suggestions.

“I look forward to seeing the hospital board and the commissioners work together,” Stauffer said. She added that the group’s efforts can be an example of how to have disagreements and come to a solution.

“We have had to find common ground and find a way to have a respectful conversation,” Williams said.

For a complete copy of the Morrow County Healthcare Advisory Committee Recommendations:[email protected]/Briefcase/Public/Recommendations.

File photo Morrow County Hospital in Mount Gilead. photo Morrow County Hospital in Mount Gilead.

By Alberta Stojkovic

For The Sentinel