picture of west holt medical services facility

A Look at West Holt Medical Services from a Board Member's Perspective

Thursday, June 20, 2019

by Trent R Schaaf, Hospital Board President.

Published in the Atkinson Graphic on June 20, 2019.

Have you ever wondered what happens inside the walls of West Holt Medical Services or what challenges we face as a non-profit critical access hospital?

At least once a month an executive board of directors comprised of nine volunteer members gathers at West Holt Medical Services. Also in attendance you will find the CEO, Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Finance, Director of Human Resources, Quality Assurance Coordinator, and a medical staff representative who are there to present their reports and answer any questions that arise.

Prior to the meeting the board receives a report from each of the internal department team leaders giving updates on current and ongoing projects and key metrics for their department. Occasionally one of the team leaders may be asked to be present at the meeting to answer questions or present a proposal.

The board is not using this information to make the day-to-day operational decisions for the hospital, as this is the role of the CEO. However, the board uses this information to gauge the performance of the hospital and its services from a quality and financial perspective.

Throughout my seven years of service on the board, I can confidently say that “Quality Care” is the number one priority for administration, team leaders, and the board.

Quality is gauged both internally and externally through surveys and reports and then this information is compared to state and national trends. The internal trends are monitored very closely so that adjustments can be made as needed to improve patient experiences and outcomes.

If you compare data from internal statistics of the hospital to national trends, there is a definite shift from inpatient to outpatient based care. This change is being driven by increasing premiums and deductibles along with an overall push to shorten hospital stays by utilizing improved procedures, techniques, and medication options.

With the shift to outpatient based services it has become very clear that our current facility is not properly designed or equipped to handle the patient volumes that visiting specialists are generating.

West Holt Medical Services has also increased their outpatient surgeries with several providers utilizing the operating room. This operating room is another component of the renovation project as the current operating room isn’t the appropriate size to accommodate the equipment and personnel that some of these procedures require.

The location of the current operating room has continually proven to be another issue as there are strict state requirements that must be followed and maintained in order to provide a safe and healthy experience for both patients and staff.

The board continues to look at new opportunities that are brought forward by the staff. These opportunities may be in addition to the current services offered or improvements to the services or procedures already provided. Equipment and technology upgrades are steadily improved as staying up-to-date improves performance, reliability, and safety.

Employee training is always on the forefront as there are many incredible people at West Holt Medical Services who strive to provide the facility and community with high quality services and care.

Current Challenges:

Although West Holt Medical Services has four excellent and highly qualified providers in our primary care clinic to see to your urgent and non-urgent needs, the board and administration are persistent in their pursuit of a full-time physician. There are many challenges for many small, rural hospitals when it comes to recruiting a physician. One challenge is finding one in the geographical location of our community. Another challenge is, there is a family medicine physician shortage across the country so we are competing with other facilities and practices across the nation.

The board is continually hearing references to “The way things were when doctor…was here day, night, weekends, and holidays, always on-call, delivering babies, and removing appendixes.” There may be a few doctors out there like this, but they are a disappearing breed as today’s physicians have so many more opportunities such as three to four day work weeks, no weekends, no nights, no holidays and no on-call responsibilities.

We continually work to update our physician recruiting strategy, employee contract and sign-on bonus and work with recruiters to ensure that we have a solid and attractive package to offer. The board is also working on getting connections made with current and future medical students to possibly provide some support for them while they work through medical school.

Another current challenge is the vacancy of the CEO position. Brad Pfeifer performed many incredible and challenging tasks while he was leading our organization and he has set the bar high for the next CEO. But he left for one reason and that was to be closer to his family.

While the board was disappointed to see him go, we couldn’t argue with his reason for leaving. The board has enlisted the recruiting firm, B.E. Smith who specializes in medical executive searches. We have worked with them in the past and they are familiar with our facility and our community. While their search will be national, they will do initial screening and interviews to narrow down the applicants to those that look to be the best suited for our rural community.

Whether our next CEO will be here for one year or twenty, we don’t know. West Holt Medical Services isn’t made up of any one individual. It is a large group of individuals that come together daily, weekly, or monthly to fulfill their role as volunteers on boards, volunteers in the hospital and clinic, providers, nurses, office personnel, pharmacy, lab, radiology, environmental services, therapy, surgery, outreach, and many other positions critical to the life of our medical community.

The board’s number one focus is to ensure that this hospital is positioned for long-term success in our community so that this section of rural America always has access to immediate and quality healthcare.

Support of your local hospital helps to ensure that it is prepared to take care of you when you need it! Please continue to support West Holt Medical Services as we work to support you and your family in your healthcare needs!