Hospital still expanding services, footprint

RRH CEO Jim Suver delivers positive update at Economic Outlook Conference

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Hospital still expanding  services, footprintDespite tumultuously changing funding, mandates, resources and public expectations, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver reported at the recent IWV Economic Outlook Conference that the local institution is improving patient-care services while remaining a top employer and contributor to quality of life in our valley.

In the last few years, RRH has expanded services to the un- and underinsured, as well as those seeking treatment for cancer and mental health issues. The hospital has also hired many new physicians and is gearing up for a major expansion of the emergency department.

One of the main challenges, Suver said, is being able to deliver on-demand services in a remote community that does not have the volume or resources to support specialties. He opened by joking that he was joining forces with Amazon and Warren Buffet to open a drive-through emergency room. “We take all credit cards!” he joked.

In seriousness, he said that he hoped the expansion of the emergency department, along with continued physician recruitment, would continue to shorten wait times for patients. But he added that health care needs to be more than an “episodic” visit to the ER. Toward that end, RRH is looking to help manage follow-up care so that patients can receive continuous services.

“I want you to know how sensitive our hospital is to government reimbursements,” he said. Even a 4-percent decrease puts RRH in a position to cut services.

“So this is something we are watching very, very carefully.” Fiscal uncertainty has been one of the unfortunate impacts of healthcare reforms. Although the hospital has employed effective lobbyists, “if our budget continues to be cut, we may be asking for your help.”

One of the subtle challenges presented by modern reforms is that much of the burden of wellness falls on the public health institutions, rather than the individuals.

Clinical care makes up about 10 percent of overall wellness services. More than 70 percent come down to lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, he said.

“We are used to having a hospital to make us well when we are sick,” said Tera Moorehead, who leads RRH’s robust outreach and education in the community. “So now our focus is on keeping you healthy.”

She said that the vast majority of diseases can be avoided, or at least mitigated, by healthy living — eating right, staying active and finding outlets to find fulfillment and reduce stress.

For information about the hospital’s free resources for nutrition, fitness and support groups, visit www.rrh.org.

Story First Published: 2018-03-16