Hospital/Clinic Receive High Approval Ratings
Posted on Saturday, November 2nd, 2002
When it comes to health care in Love County, there’s more than meets the eye of the casual observer, a community health needs assessment group has found. After spending the past six months compiling information about health services and conducting a random telephone survey of 201 citizens, the group has put together a summary of its findings.
· The health sector is a major employer in Love County. A total of 162 workers draw a payroll of $3.9 million per year from the hospital, clinic, ambulance service, nursing home, pharmacy, dentist, optometrist, and health department in Marietta. Another 84 jobs in the community owe their origins to the business and spending of the health care sector, and another $2.1 million in retail sales flow from this indirect employment.
“The economic impact of the health sector upon the economy is tremendous. The health sector employs a large number of residents, similar to a large industrial firm. The secondary impact occurring in the community is extremely large and measures the total impact of the health sector. If the health sector increases or decreases in size, the medical health of the community, as well as the economic health of the community, are greatly affected. For the attraction of industrial firms, businesses, and retirees, it is crucial that the area have a quality health sector. Often overlooked is the fact that a prosperous health sector also contributes to the economic health of the community,” the group’s report stated.
· The hospital, clinic, and emergency room received high approval ratings from the 201 persons selected at random and asked their opinions by professional surveyors. Among the respondents, 90% of those who had received a health service from Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic within the past year were satisfied with their experience. The satisfaction ratings in specific areas included 93% for the quality of care from family doctors or physician assistants, 89% for the experience at the clinic, 90% at the hospital, and 87% at the emergency room.
“The emergency room rating was substantially higher than in most other counties,” the surveyors, a professional group from OSU Extension in Stillwater and the Office of Rural Health in the State Department of Health, remarked. Generally, emergency room satisfaction is in the 70 percentile, they told the group.
· A slim majority (54%) of the 201 respondents said they go to the Love County clinic for routine health needs. Ardmore physicians and clinics drew the next largest response, 26%. Seven other towns accounted for the balance of responses. Those using an out-of-town physician most often gave one of three reasons: they were already an established patient of the physician, 25%; the physician was closer to their home, 25%; or they had enhanced confidence in the quality of care of the physician, 15%.
Hospital administrator Richard Barker said that the local facility is interested in attracting as many patients as possible from Love County for routine health care needs. He said that many potential patients may not yet be aware that the clinic has been operating for the past few years in a spacious new building on hospital grounds or that the number of primary care providers includes five physicians’ assistants and a family nurse practitioner, in addition to the three physicians.
“The most important feature the public may not yet fully grasp is that our clinic is open 24 hours per day. A person needing routine health care can receive it day or night,” Barker said. During weekdays, the clinic building is the place to go. At night or weekends, the clinic offers services in the emergency room. Despite being seen in the emergency room, if the person is there for a routine reason, he or she pays the lower clinic rate. A physician or physicians’ assistant is on duty at all times to provide regular clinic care, Barker explained.
· When it came to hospital services, 40% of respondents who had been hospitalized in the past 12 months had been patients at Mercy Memorial Health Center in Ardmore, 34% at Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, and 12% at an Oklahoma City hospital. Seven other area towns accounted for the balance of hospitalizations. Those using an out-of-county hospital most often gave one of three reasons: closer to home or more convenient, 28%; recommendation or referral, 20%; or specialist care, 17%.
The study group learned from hospital management that many of the recommendations or referrals for out-of-county care come from the local doctors. The local hospital does not perform surgery or deliver babies (except in an emergency), so local doctors refer patients to Mercy Memorial in Ardmore or other hospital for specialist care. Often, patients who are recuperating transfer back to Love County hospital to receive skilled nursing care closer to home.
Keeping the hospital’s 25 beds occupied is as important as attracting outpatients. Both the hospital and the clinic need Love County residents to spend their healthcare dollars in Love County to the extent possible, Barker pointed out.
· Half of the 201 respondents thought there are not enough family doctors in Love County. At the same time, only 4% gave as their reason for using a family doctor outside the County that their wait at the local clinic was too long, and only 2% that a doctor was not available to see them.
· The price of doctor’s care in Love County apparently compares favorably to other counties. Only 8% of respondents using an out-of-county doctor said they did so because it was more affordable.
· The overall costs of health care, medicine, and insurance coverage and the need to assure continued physician availability ranked as the top concerns about health care in the community. Of those respondents who were insured, 58% were covered by their employer, with 22% covered by Medicare and 17% by a self-pay plan. Seventy percent of respondents without health care coverage cited affordability as the reason.
· Of respondents who had visited a specialist within the past year, 16.9% had seen a cardiologist. Oncologist was next most likely, with 7.5%.
· Only 36% of respondents thought rehabilitation services (physical therapy, occupational therapy, an speech therapy) were adequately represented in the county.
· Respondents also were asked about the Love County Health Department. Twenty-six percent of respondents had used the Health Department within the past year, and 96% of those were satisfied with the department.
The survey indicated to the group that the public may not be fully aware that rehabilitation services are offered at the hospital/clinic and through the Lake Country Manor Nursing Home.
The services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. “Having these services in Marietta is a real plus and can save a lot of driving time for patients who are recovering from an illness or injury. Helping people recover and return to their jobs or other activities helps our local manufacturers and boosts the economy,” Barker said.
The OSU/Health Department consultants who advised the group suggested that promoting local health care services would be an important outcome of their work.
Accordingly, during the study, the group drafted a Health Care Directory of health care providers in Love County. The draft also includes social service providers, city/county offices, and the helpline telephone numbers of support groups for a host of chronic diseases. The group is seeking funding to print the directory and distribute it widely throughout the County.
At its final meeting on October 31, the study group also voted to link up with the Turning Point coalition that has been formed by members of the Love County Task Force on Child Abuse Prevention and the Love County Coalition on Substance Abuse Prevention.
The combined task forces plan to seek grants for an array of public health projects in Love County. Some of them will enhance facilities and services at the hospital/clinic.
Members of the public are invited to submit suggestions to the Turning Point coalition. The hospital/clinic administrator invites calls at 276-3347.
The study group consisted of hospital and ambulance board members, representatives from other health-related entities in the County, as well as area employers and community leaders.
The consultants for the study included David Shelton and Jack Frye of OSU Extension Services, Stillwater, and Alexandria Hart, Regional Health Consultant with the Health Department, Oklahoma City.