Health advisory group hears EMS Director’s concerns

By Alberta Stojkovic - For The Sentinel

MOUNT GILEAD — The Morrow County Healthcare Initiative Advisory Committee (MC-HIC) heard EMS Director Jeff Sparks speak about EMS experiences with the Morrow County Hospital at their Feb. 22 meeting.

Sparks reported that Morrow County EMS made 4,343 runs in 2020. 1,146 went to Morrow County Hospital. Others were transported to hospitals in Marion, Mansfield, Columbus and other hospitals in the region.

He said of the 1,000 patients taken to Morrow County Hospital, 535 were transferred to other hospitals because services were not adequate to treat their conditions here.

“Strokes and heart attacks aren’t taken to Morrow County Hospital,” Sparks said.

Sparks said he has been with Morrow County EMS for 32 years. He remembers when the hospital did accept more patients with strokes and heart attacks. In the 1980s and 90s he said there were physicians on hand who could treat those conditions.

Committee member Loren Altizer asked Sparks what services at the hospital he would like to see reinstated, added or improved.

Services needed

Sparks named five services he would like to see added, or improved. He said behavioral health as the first service he would like to see added. They now have to transport patients with behavioral needs to Tiffin, Columbus and Willoughby. The four other services Sparks wants improved are stroke, cardiac, trauma and general medical services.

“Having those services in Morrow County Hospital added or improved would not only be better for EMS transport, they would benefit the entire community,” Sparks said.

Sparks added that just 12 to 15 percent of residents use Morrow County Hospital. With more services, many more would choose to go to Morrow County Hospital. Sparks said he believes Morrow County Hospital is much needed in the county, especially to those within a 10 mile radius of Mount Gilead.

Goals, timeline, meeting dates

Committee member Carol Lessick pointed out that the group needs to look at July 1 as a deadline for recommendations to the Hospital board and commissioners. That is because the hospital contract expires Dec. 31, 2021 and the hospital board requires six months’ notice of changes. That leaves time for only seven or eight meetings if they are held every other week.

The group discussed what information and research is needed in the next few months. Lois Stauffer recommended looking at other rural hospitals and how other counties of similar size and growth are handling healthcare. She will send links to Chairman Richard Steele for the group.

Other sources suggested were the ECG firm that consulted for the hospital board, OSU or another university, Battelle, and the Morrow County Health Department assessment.

Possible speakers for the group suggested were CJ Miller, Hospital CEO; Andy Ware, Morrow County Development Director; a local physician and another rural hospital representative.

There was general agreement among committee members that having a hospital in Morrow County is needed and a benefit to the county.

“We need to establish what services we need and then who owns Morrow County Hospital and who is to manage it,” Steele said. “What investment is needed?”

Questions suggested by LeAnne Gompf, “What are the challenges facing healthcare in Morrow County, and what strategies would you recommend to improve healthcare in the county?”

The next meeting of MC-HIC will be Monday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. The public can attend the meeting on Zoom and a link will be posted on the Morrow County Hospital website.

By Alberta Stojkovic

For The Sentinel