East Surry FBLA students advance

The Pilot Mountain Knob County Club was the setting for a “Lunch and Learn” event sponsored by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce on Friday. A new addition to the chamber offerings, this luncheon offered a Q&A with Northern Regional Hospital CEO Chris Lumsden.

Chamber Speaker Randy Collins greeted the crowd and Connie Hamlin of RidgeCrest as the new Chamber Speaker. Hamlin will speak at the chamber’s annual meeting this Thursday, Jan. 27, at Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy.

Chris Lumsden, the chamber’s outgoing chairman, led the assembly in a quiz to see who knew what in terms of the Northern Regional Hospital – with varying results. It was a lighthearted way to bring up the very serious subject of health care in a room full of people from other professional backgrounds.

Component of a success

Beneath the quiz was the goal of shedding light on a vital component of this community. Collins said the hospital is one leg of a “four-legged stool,” with strong public schools, responsive local government and a strong business community that make for a thriving community.

“It’s like anything else,” he said, “if you’re not sick, not sick, or you know someone who’s in the hospital – I don’t know Not if I even think about it. But believe me, if you get sick, all of a sudden that big place on the hill is pretty important.

Independent hospitals are rare in North Carolina, Lumsden pointed out, there are only 12 here and just five in Virginia. The independence of the Northern Regional Hospital, he said, is one of the reasons he took the job here. Being a small, independent hospital has allowed them to be more “nimble and nimble”.

Pandemic realities

From November 2020 to present, Lumsden said the hospital was full and he reported 39 patients in the Northern Regional ER that day. “We have 20 patients in the emergency room waiting for a bed or a transfer.”

While the numbers are still rising, an in-hospital positivity rate of 34% right now, they’re similar here in Surry County to what he’s hearing from other health systems.

“The good news with this latest variant is that it appears to be very contagious, but perhaps not as lethal. Unfortunately, we don’t see this at the Northern Regional Hospital nor, as I talk to my colleagues across the state, and in Va. The same numbers are surfacing there as well.

COVID-19 is costing the hospital money, there’s no easier way to deter the idea other than to hear from the CEO: “People think we’re making money from COVID. The reality is that we are unfortunately losing $2,000 per COVID patient. We’re treating people, we’re the safety net for those patients, but we’re not making money on COVID patients. It is a real challenge to take care of our community while having a balanced budget.

North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens questioned that amount, the answer was twofold: The first was the price of the COVID-fighting drug remdesivir. At $2,000 per patient, a total of $1.5 million was spent on remdesivir alone at Northern. Last year, this accounted for 25% of the hospital’s total drug budget.

Second, the average age of these patients is older, and because primary and preventive care has often been delayed during the pandemic, patients present with more complicated illnesses. Visits for these patients tend to be longer and may require long ventilator stays, costs that cannot be eliminated.

Staffing has been a challenge across industries during the pandemic, but the sheer scale of those recently due to the new variant has been remarkable. The hospital is not immune to these problems, but Lumsden highlighted some positive news: “The programs we started a few years ago are paying off – we now have employees we could never have -be not had otherwise.”

People-centered goals

One of the hospital’s notable smart goals is simply titled “people.” Lumsden said he wants to improve the hospital’s engagement with the public school system and colleges with tuition assistance programs and scholarship programs. The question he asks: “How do we cultivate ours?” How do you create a pipeline for people to stay here and work in health care in Northern? »

In 2018, Northern Regional spent $10,000 in tuition assistance, and last year that number grew to $275,000 in employee education assistance. Just under ten percent of the workforce participates in educational assistance programs and pursues a degree or certification to further their healthcare career.

With the vast majority of staff coming from this community, he wants the focus to be on the question, “How do we attract young and older students, people from this community, keep them here and keep them in care. health ?”

Fostering the next generation of local talent would be ideal for the hospital as they continue to evolve and try to keep their clientele in town. Migration of patients from Surry County to Forsyth County, Winston-Salem in particular, is an area for improvement and in which Northern is already improving, a 5% growth in market share has been cited.

stay local

The opening of the Northern Regional Urgent Care Center in 2020 was a big part of the equation to have more local options and “relieved some of the pressure on the ER”. Urgent care exceeded the 40 daily patients they were supposed to handle.

The need for care options cannot be overstated, and Lumsden said one only has to look north to see why. “I recognize that we serve more than Mount Airy, we serve more than Surry County. We serve an area of ​​four to five counties.

“One of the regions with the highest market share isn’t even in North Carolina. Sa Virginia: Patrick County, Carroll and Galax County. By percentage, our highest market share is in Southwest Virginia. It shows you how important the closure of a hospital like Stuart’s is and its impact on the community. The problems that Galax has now, it’s not good, a lot of these patients are moving south for treatment.

With over a thousand employees, a payroll of $55 million a year, 100 physicians, 45 of whom are employed directly by the Northern Regional Hospital, Lumsden made the following diagnosis: “Let’s keep and treat who we can at Northern, and don’t send them back. ”

About Troy McMiller

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