Community leaders and state health officials met Tuesday, January 23 in the Civic Center of Vance-Granville Community College for an early morning breakfast and to share updates on the state of healthcare in Vance County. One common theme amongst the speakers was the urgent need of an educated workforce to meet the demands of healthcare in both the local area and in the state of North Carolina.
The forum, titled The Vance County State of Healthcare, was hosted by Maria Parham Health and included opening/closing remarks and guest introductions from Robert F. Noel, Jr., MD., a general surgeon in his eighteenth year of practice at Maria Parham.
Bert Beard, the chief executive officer of Maria Parham Health, was introduced by Noel as the first speaker. “Healthcare is something that effects everyone and has been in a constant state of change, which can cause confusion and concern for the people we serve. Our goal for the State of Healthcare program is to bring important information about the healthcare industry and those industries that work with and impact healthcare to our community. We value our partnerships in our community and in our industry and appreciate help in getting important information to our communities,” said Beard.
Beard spoke about population health, the shift in healthcare trends from a hospital-centered focus to a community-centered focus. He explained that hospitals could no longer focus solely on what was happening inside the hospital building, but must expand the focus to the health of the entire community.
Beard also shared updates on Maria Parham’s acquisition of the former Franklin Medical Center, which will be known as Maria Parham Franklin. The emergency department will be one of the first areas to reopen with a slated date of summer 2018. Imaging services including CT, MRI, ultrasound, x-ray and mammography are also scheduled to reopen along with the outpatient lab and a 13-bed geriatric behavioral unit. A new 20-bed unit is scheduled to open in 2019.
Stephanie McGarrah, vice president for public policy for the North Carolina Hospital Association, provided an overview of the healthcare industry in NC, the economic impact on NC health systems and NC workforce challenges.
McGarrah explained that while NC’s population continues to increase rapidly-the state was the ninth most populous in 2014-it ranks an abysmal thirty-second in the nation in terms of overall health. According to McGarrah, sources show that Vance County is considered amongst the most vulnerable of populations in the state with higher levels of poverty and higher levels of citizens without a high school diploma.
North Carolina hospitals and health systems have the unique challenge of serving all people, including the most vulnerable. “The health care industry is trying to determine how to address all health factors, including social determinants of health,” said McGarrah.
Another major issue facing the healthcare industry is that the demand for healthcare workers is outpacing the supply. McGarrah stated there are several contributing factors to this problem including the maldistribution of healthcare workers across the state, high level of worker burnout and new occupations being created by the emerging population healthcare model.
Vance-Granville Community College President Dr. Stelfanie Williams and Dr. Levy Brown, the vice president of academic affairs at VGCC, addressed the college’s role in helping educate the next generation of healthcare workers. According to Brown, VGCC currently offers 15 programs in curriculum and continuing education related to various aspects of the healthcare industry with the majority of graduates finding employment at Maria Parham Health or other local healthcare systems.
Williams acknowledged the unique challenge VGCC faces in keeping up with rapid changes in the healthcare industry, but cited Maria Parham Health and Vance Co. newcomer Mako Medical Laboratories as valuable partners in training an educated workforce.
Mark Benton, the deputy secretary for health services for the Department of Health and Human Services addressed the issue of Medicaid and the impact of North Carolina not expanding the joint federal-state insurance plan.
According to Benton, the state has since sought a revised waiver to the federal oversight agency to transform the Medicaid program. The goal is to have the first phase implemented by July 2019.
Benton also addressed social determinants of health and the devastation of the opioid crisis and stated that the DHHS “envisions a North Carolina that optimizes health and well-being for all people by effectively stewarding resources that bridge our communities and our healthcare system.”
The buffet style breakfast was provided by Triangle North Healthcare Foundation. Beard emphasized the importance that Triangle North Healthcare played in making The Vance County State of Healthcare possible and thanked Executive Director Val Short for being instrumental in the planning of the forum.
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