LOWVILLE — Over the years, Lewis County General Hospital has become more than a solitary hospital providing basic medical care. It has evolved into the health care hub for the county, providing a lifetime of care through community clinics and expanded services, from birth to prevention to cure and comfort when there is no cure.
Intensive strategic planning sessions held throughout the summer resulted in a five-year strategic plan that reminded hospital leaders that “embracing change is crucial” to fulfill the vision for the hospital’s future and that of the community’s health.
The first change to come out of the plan was a name change, to Lewis County Health System.
“The new name is more reflective of the current reality of how we deliver health care in the county,” said Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer.
Following the strategic plan, or road map, set out for the organization has the health system team working toward goals focused on improvements and growth in three areas — people and partnerships, data and technology, and margin and capital — as a means to the larger goal of making Lewis “the healthiest county in the state,” Mr. Cayer said.
Keeping and recruiting “kind, hardworking, skilled professionals” throughout every level of the organization, as with most health care facilities and organizations nationwide, is one of the most important challenges for the hospital to overcome, he said.
To do so, the strategy involves new approaches to training, opening and improving lines of communication, staff incentives and investing in their team members over the long term.
Designated as one of the 19 critical access hospitals in the state by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a key facet to the strategic plan is modernizing the facility to improve the level of care and types of services the hospital offers and to provide the technology and environment more likely to attract quality health care professionals.
The capital project, currently in its early stages, will result in a new surgical wing off the main hospital building and an expanded, updated in-patient floor with private rooms and a better work flow. It is the cornerstone of facility improvements in the strategic plan, Mr. Cayer said.
Harnessing technology and up-to-date health care delivery methods as well as better analysis of medical and care data to “provide evidence-based, timely patient centered care” are also key initiatives for the hospital to reach its goals, he said.
Over the next five years, the Healthcare System team will also, if the strategic plan is followed, take steps to “maximize revenue” for continued program and capital plans over time and to meet ever-increasing operational costs.
Since the main hospital campus first opened its doors on North State Street in 1931, the health care system that has evolved now includes family community clinics in Harrisville, Beaver River, Turin and at South Lewis Central School as well as an after hours walk-in clinic located at the main hospital campus.
Services provided across the system have also expanded to include a sleep lab, neurological services, an orthopedics department, adult day care, certified home health services and hospice in addition to long-standing services like the emergency room, the nursing home and rehabilitation services.
The Copenhagen Health Center, although currently closed, is slated to reopen in the spring after renovations are complete.
With about 700 employees including a medical staff of over 100 practitioners, Lewis County Healthcare system is the largest employer as well as the largest provider of health insurance in the county, with an operating budget of about $83 million projected for 2020.
According to the institution’s 2018 annual report, the hospital and community clinics tended 142,000 outpatient visits while 11,000 people were treated in the emergency room. In that year, 1,300 people were admitted to the hospital and 200 babies were delivered.
Mr. Cayer said in his introduction to the report, “This is truly local access to health care,”
For more information about the Lewis County Health System, go to https://www.lcgh.net/.