MedWest hires consulting firm, seeks community input

By Caroline Klapper | Mar 22, 2013

The MedWest Board with Carolinas HealthCare System announced Wednesday that the organization is hiring an independent strategic consulting firm with specific expertise in hospital governance and hospital affiliation matters.

In a press release from MedWest, the board stated that the move was made to “assist in the process of our hospitals moving forward from a structural perspective.”

Since last year, MedWest Health System’s future as an affiliation between the three hospitals that make up the system — MedWest-Haywood, MedWest-Harris and MedWest-Swain — has been on shaky ground after the WestCare governing board (over Harris and Swain) voted to adopt a resolution to dissolve MedWest.

While only the MedWest board can actually make the decision to end the affiliation, no final determination has been made yet about the future of the group. The board is currently continuing discussions about the future structure of MedWest Health System.

MedWest representatives declined to comment or give any further information about the name of the consulting firm, or the job it will be doing for the organization.

The statement from the board continued with, “The board takes its responsibilities in this regard seriously and wants to be as educated as possible for the benefit of the communities served by our three MedWest hospitals.”

Community input

Meanwhile, MedWest-Haywood’s new CEO Janie Sinacore-Jaberg has launched a series of community focus groups all over the county in an attempt to come to an understanding about what is working at the hospital and what isn’t.

“We want to get some ideas on where we need to go to move forward,” she said at one of the public meetings. “I want honesty. I don’t want you to say what you think I want to hear because we can’t fix it if we don’t know it’s broken.”

Each person attending the focus group took an electronic survey. The survey included questions about what services people had used, if they would use those services again, and what might prevent them from coming back to MedWest-Haywood for treatment. The survey also asked questions about people’s perceptions of the hospital and more specific questions about what they liked and didn’t like about various aspects of their treatment.

One big area of concern for almost everyone participating in the focus groups has been problems with the billing system. Sinacore-Jaberg acknowledged that billing is an issue on which they have been consistently working.

“We have billing issues, and we know that. We are diligently working through those issues,” she said.

The good with the bad

Each person in the group was asked to share any experiences, comments or concerns they have about the hospital. Most had both positive and negative experiences to share, and while there were many issues, almost everyone expressed a desire to see the local hospital succeed.

“We need our community hospital,” said retired hospital worker Lynn Sellers.

While the care she and her family members have received has been good, she did comment that the nurses seemed “very hassled and hurried."

“They needed help,” she said.

June Dale, a resident of Canton for 20 years, talked about experiences she’s had with urgent care, outpatient surgery and the emergency room at the hospital.

“I’d say 90 percent of my comments are very positive. The 10 percent are very negative,” she said.

The doctors and patient care have all been excellent, Dale said, but she’s had problems with billing and one incident was particularly upsetting regarding an outpatient surgery procedure her father received.

Although the surgery went well, she said he was in recovery when the clinic was ready to close.

“He was rushed out of there when he could hardly walk. I was very scared,” she said, adding she would expect patients to be scheduled so that they were fully recovered before it was time to close.

Sinacore-Jaberg asked if she would have preferred to have him transferred to the hospital until he was recovered, and Dale said that would have been a much better solution.

For Diana Laursen, owner of Hazelwood Soap Co. and mother of four children, having a local hospital is important.

She said she has used urgent care many times and loves the service and the medical staff, but she realizes, overall, the hospital has to overcome a negative reputation with much of the community.

“The staff is phenomenal, very caring and compassionate, and people are over the negative,” she said. “You need to take the positive story and make it bigger than the negative story. Get rid of the negative nellies. They don’t know what it’s like not to have a hospital here.”

Fitness Center employee Janet Peterson agreed with Laursen and said she thinks many people don’t realize how many great doctors are here in Haywood County. She had an appendectomy done at the hospital and “just thought it was excellent care.”

Another point Peterson made was that people have difficulty locating doctors’ offices in the hospital complex, which leads to frustration. She suggested improved signage to help with this problem.

Other issues discussed included staff reductions, cosmetic appearance of some of the older clinics, and long ER waits.

At the end of the focus group, Sinacore-Jaberg thanked everyone for coming and said their comments will help bring positive change to MedWest-Haywood.

“I care, and I want to make the hospital better,” she said.

The next and final Community Focus Group is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at the Senior Resource Center in Waynesville. Once the results have been tallied and compiled from all of the focus groups, they will be announced to the public.