In your most recent role as chief ambulatory officer at Cody Regional Health in Wyoming, you boosted revenue by 30%. What are your goals as leader of Cox Monett Hospital?
The new $42 million Cox Monett Hospital opened in January of 2021, and our leadership team now is working on answering that very question. As a new employee of CoxHealth, right now I am focused on building relationships with our incredible staff and physicians and advanced practice providers. I spent my first few days on the job visiting different hospital departments and then touring our rural health clinics. Cox Monett had an incredible leader before me, Darren Bass, and the hospital grew under his leadership and is now one of the best rural hospitals in the nation for quality and patient satisfaction. This was a very big part of my reason for accepting this role.
What are the challenges faced by rural residents when it comes to their health care? What are the services/technologies at Monett addressing that?
Access to services can be a huge challenge, and that’s no different here. We are continuing to recruit an additional family practice physician who’s going to be joining in September, and we’re also recruiting another family practice and obstetrician that will be joining the team. We’re going to continue to look at specialists who can also come to see patients in Monett. Currently, our services include general surgery, orthopedics, neurology, physical medicine, cardiology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, nephrology. We just recently added a part-time orthopedic surgeon. There’s certainly an opportunity to continue to grow orthopedics. That’s one of the things that I’m hearing when I talk to patients is that they want to stay close to home for their health care. The pharmacy in the new hospital is located off the main entrance now, and so it’s easily accessible to patients and visitors. We’ve expanded the hours of the pharmacy to include weekends and evenings. CoxHealth Urgent Care in Monett is continuing to grow. We recently added a second provider to see patients during peak time during the weekdays.
The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data found the health care industry saw overall employment gains in May but are down 1.3% from pre-pandemic numbers. Are there unique challenges to rural recruitment and retention?
Recruitment is certainly a challenge for all health care organizations. The challenge with the recruitment of providers is trying to get them to consider practicing in rural health care. Part of the issue is just getting them to come here. Once they arrive and they see the beautiful facility, they meet the staff, they see how technologically advanced they are, they soon realize that Cox Monett is a great place to practice medicine. That has been helpful in recruiting our most recent family practice and obstetrician providers and orthopedic. Just last week, CoxHealth Monett hosted what’s called the Rural Immersion Program. It’s a four-day intensive program for health professional students who are interested in living and working in a rural area. The experience that they get over those four days highlights the social and communal aspects of living in rural America. They do group activities, and they meet with community leaders, like here at Monett hospital, and they get a preview of life as a rural health care professional. The pandemic has also led to an increase in what was already a national nursing shortage. The beauty of a rural hospital is a family atmosphere. In fact, that’s one thing that I heard repeatedly from the different departments I visited.
Is there loan reimbursement for providers who work in a rural health systems?
Health Resources and Services Administration offers some of those benefits, and we do qualify for some of that loan forgiveness. That is a huge factor, too, to help bring people to rural America.
The COVID-19 pandemic stressed the health care industry and its workers. What are some takeaways you have from that time that will lead you in this next role?
One of the biggest lessons learned through COVID is the necessity for collaboration. And it wasn’t just collaboration throughout the immediate health organization, but it was collaboration with other social service industries, other health care entities outside of our own system. We were all working together to bring solutions to the community, to keep people safe, to keep them informed as best as possible in this rapidly changing environment.
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