CALAIS, Maine — Calais Regional Hospital is “Reaching New Heights,” was the message at the April 23 annual meeting held at the St. Croix Country Club.
Reflecting on the past year, Michael Lally, chief executive officer, talked about changes that were implemented with an eye toward improvement in health care for patients.
Two years ago the U.S. Congress passed the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act. The legislation introduced a wave of change shifting healthcare reimbursement from a volume-driven industry, to a value-based model of delivery. Although the hospital has always focused on quality health care for patients, Lally said, the legislation means a new emphasis on patient safety and public reporting.
CRH administration, as well as staff, are onboard and have taken the lead in making the changes. ”We continued through the year to make sound operational revisions to policies and programs,” Lally said. “The most telling example was the development of a more robust Quality Management Program throughout the organization.”
For patients that meant the creation of a culture of transparency, mutual support and employee involvement. There were numerous educational presentations throughout the year that allowed employees to engage in an open dialogue as the hospital identified areas for performance improvement within specific departments and between departments. As a result, the number of patients admitted to the hospital was up last year, as were emergency room visits as well as many clinical and outpatient department visits.
The introduction of a hospitalist, in-house physician, has been a good fit at CRH. “This service has been well received by providers, staff, patients and families, all working together with our hospitalist coordinating the many aspects of inpatient care and referrals,” he said.
Last year, the hospital entered into an agreement with Blue Water Emergency, a Maine-based group to provide high quality community-based emergency services. Lally said that the group joined CRH in October. “This is a group of doctors who really want to be a part of our community,” he said.
Drs. Jay Mullen and Guy Nuki of Blue Water Emergency talked about the collaborative agreement and the positive relationship that has evolved.
The focus of the partnership, Mullen said is customer service, quality care, cost accountability and team orientation. Mullen had high praise for long-time CRH Emergency Department Physician Dr. Cressey Brazier, who, he said, is an integral part of the team. Other team members that are employed by Blue Water Emergency, but work at CRH, are three ED physicians and two team back-up members. Bluewater also brings, Mullen added, ED management experience and expertise.
Nuki noted that the partnership now means a stability in Emergency Department staff, something that has been absent in the past.
In addition to changes in the Emergency Department, other accomplishments last year included expanded coverage at the rural health center with the addition of new staff and construction of a new medical building for Orthopedics and Surgery. A new telemedicine service was introduced for the hospital’s special care unit and emergency department that will allow providers to communicate with consulting physicians and staff at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, which means more patients, can remain in Calais, rather than being transferred to Bangor.
The hospital also has entered into a Memorandum of Collaboration with Eastport Health Center to increase health care for patients at the local level that includes the availability of physical therapy treatment at the health centers in Eastport and, in a separate agreement, at Pleasant Point. The partners also are looking to hire a full-time psychiatrist who will serve both CRH and the Eastport Health Center.
A review of the hospital finances revealed that once again the hospital faced a loss in revenue, but far less than last year. Medicaid and Medicare still owe the hospital nearly $1.8 million in back payments. Most of the hospital’s income comes from Medicaid and Medicare with a small percentage coming from health insurance companies and about 2 percent from patients who are self pay. The majority of the income is spent on personnel 66 percent and most of the remaining on supplies and services.
Long-time board of director Chairman Linda Gralenski announced she would be stepping down. She also announced that three other Directors also have retired: Aaron Morris, Marshall Hennequin and Dennis Brown. Incoming Chair is Everette Libby of Calais and in coming new Directors are: Brian Mays of Calais, Todd Smith of Perry and Toby Sutton of Baileyville.