MOUNT GILEAD — County Development Director Andy Ware suggested the Morrow County Health Initiative Citizens advisory group “take a fresh look at what OhioHealth and other health systems could offer Morrow County for its healthcare needs.”
Ware was invited by the advisory group as a resource person.
He told the group at their meeting Monday, that he sees the changes at Morrow County Hospital (MCH) from the perspective of economic development. The demographic trends of the county show positive growth in population, improvement in infrastructure, and new jobs at Dollar Tree Distribution Center and other local industries.
As one of the largest employers in the county, Ware said it is important to recognize the economic value the hospital brings as well as serving the healthcare needs of the county.
History of hospital
The healthcare industry and healthcare professions are also an area of growth for the state and the central Ohio region. Because of that trend in healthcare growth, Ware expressed concern that there has been a loss of employees at (MCH).
Ware went over some of the history of MCH as a Critical Access Hospital. This designation gives it value in that it provides for higher reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
He also offered documents on other Critical Access Hospitals in the state that have negotiated agreements with Adena and OhioHealth Systems, or have transitioned like Pomerene in Holmes County to become non-profit hospitals.
Some concerns Ware listed about MCH included a loss of patient numbers, loss of some services and a loss of employees. He also presented MCH reports that show a downward financial trajectory that he believes puts closing the hospital as a very real possibility in the next few years if the downward trend continues.
He said this despite the fact that MCH has no debt and a sizable cash balance.
‘Fresh look’ encouraged
In their recommendations to the hospital and commissioners, Ware encouraged the advisory group to consider not only other healthcare systems, but how the agreement with OhioHealth could be improved.
“Take a fresh look at everything. Competition is always good for negotiations,” Ware added.
Advisory group member Donna Carver questioned Ware about the hospital closing. “Has the hospital board Indicated to you that they intend to close the hospital?”
Ware said the hospital board had not stated they will close the hospital, but his concern is that the financial picture gives the impression that closure is likely given the downward financial trends and since closure is mentioned 10 times in the OhioHealth/MCH agreement.
Advisory member Lois Stauffer asked about Ware’s knowledge of healthcare finances and healthcare benchmarks. Ware acknowledged that his experience is in business and government. He encouraged the group to get all the input they can from outside people with clinical and financial knowledge of healthcare.
The advisory group introduced a new member, Jennifer Williams, who replaces Richard Steele as chairperson. Steele resigned from the group.
Williams resides in Lincoln Township and is part owner of Weilands Market in Clintonville, Ohio. She is a graduate of Ohio University with a background in journalism. She has served on the Morrow County Regional Planning Committee.
The group then spent some time on what resources and speakers are needed for their purpose of making recommendations on healthcare for the county. Future speakers planned are MCH CEO, Chad “CJ” Miller, and Dr. Vincent Trago, local physicians, Avita Health Systems representatives and documents on the website.
Stauffer urged the group to keep its focus on what Morrow County’s healthcare needs are and how the group can look at ways to achieve their purpose of recommendations to the hospital and commissioners.
The next meeting of MC-HIC will be Tuesday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. Avita Health System will do a presentation.