Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We’re Number Three!!

Budget Travel magazine runs an annual contest with their readers to find America’s Coolest Small Towns. It’s totally a popularity contest and Grinnell finished as the third coolest small town in America behind Owego, New York, and Rockland, Maine.

What makes a small town cool? According to Budget Travel, the town must be less than 10,000 in population, on the upswing, a place that’s beginning to draw attention and new residents because of the quality of life, arts, and restaurants, and proximity to nature. A couple of other comments from the magazine,
  • “You have to be able to get a good cup of coffee!”
  • “When people leave for the big city, they realize they’ve made a mistake and come back home.”
Now that’s pretty cool.

Of course to the folks who live and work around here this proclamation comes as no surprise. We have some amazing attributes and clearly deserve this declaration. From great companies like Jeld Wen and Grinnell Mutual (and many more) to wonderful schools; from Grinnell College to Ahrens Park; from our historic downtown to the beauty of the houses on Main and Broad Street; from the fledgling Transportation Museum to all the City of Grinnell projects like the Drake Library and Public Safety Building. The list could go on and on, however I think you get the idea!

Of course, I would like to also think that the medical center also helps to contribute to making Grinnell such a great place to live. Cool towns don’t just happen. It takes talented and dedicated people working together to create such an outstanding town. Generations of Grinnellians have put their shoulder to effort and as my friend Claude Ahrens used to say, “leave it better than you found it.”

Congratulations to Bill Menner and all the people who continue to put Grinnell on the map. It is always fun to be recognized by others for the hard work and effort all our citizens have made in creating truly one of the coolest small towns in America!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Time to Celebrate and to Say Thank You

It’s National Hospital Week. At most hospitals, it is a time for us to take a moment out of the everyday schedule to have a little fun and celebrate the good things we do. Our Celebration Council does a great job of planning a week of activities for our staff. There are games, contests, chair massages, a raffle for donated items and prizes, and the popular Parish Picnic. When Dr. Parish retired, he donated funds to the hospital to be used for a staff appreciation event. It’s become a GRMC tradition. Sometimes it’s lunch and in other years, we’ve had a Parish breakfast with fresh Belgian waffles and all the trimmings.

The past two years, we’ve served barbecue from When Pigs Fly BBQ in Des Moines and it’s been great!

I am thankful and very proud of the men and women who give of themselves, their expertise and compassion to care for all who rely on Grinnell Regional Medical Center to be here when they need us. This hospital enjoys incredible community support and it is all because of the people who work here. The community has great trust in this organization, and so do I.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Here for you, when you need us

Recently Mindy Uitermarkt and I were invited to Monsanto to talk with their employees about GRMC and our annual fund drive. It was my first opportunity to tour the new engineering division of this amazing Monsanto complex. I must admit, I was blown away by the complexity of producing seed corn and totally impressed with everything I saw. In the simplest terms, the new Foundation division is involved in engineering new seed stock and the seed production division produces an abundant amount of this new seed for farmers. What used to be a limited seasonal operation a few years ago, is now a year-round and often a 24-hour operation. Monsanto and their employees have always been very generous and supportive of our mission and it occurred to me just how lucky our community is to have such a substantial and exciting company located here.

A month ago a few employees from the Foundation division were exposed to some seed from another country that was contaminated and made them ill. They were transported to GRMC and we were able to treat them and help them all recover. I mention this because during our presentation about our annual fund drive, several of the employees that we cared for stood up and expressed their appreciation for their experience with us. One of them made a point of coming up after the meeting and continued to express her thanks.

To be honest, it really made my day. It’s clearly the everyday work of hundreds of dedicated staff at GRMC that makes such a difference in the lives of others. I am so proud of all the women and men that make up our team. We practice being ready for all kinds of emergency and public health situations so that we may respond effectively. As we say at GRMC, this is YOUR hospital.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Mighty Band Travels to DC

On April 25, a mighty band of GRMC advocates made our way to our nation's capitol to fight for fair and equitable Medicare and Medicaid payment as part of the American Hospital Association's Annual Meeting. Susan Witt (board chair), Ed Hatcher (board chair-elect), Michelle Rebelsky, MD, (physician board member), Rachel Cain (UI graduate student and our summer intern), and I all left Iowa on a gloomy day hoping to get our voices heard.

We arrived to 90 degree weather in Washington, D.C. The temperature was the perfect metaphor for the red hot debates on healthcare reform and sizzling presentations from some Beltway insiders we witnessed. By now, anyone who reads my blog knows GRMC is a so called "tweener" - too big to be a critical access hospital and receive cost based reimbursement and too small to be a rural referral center, which also has better payment levels. As for GRMC, we got paid some $7 million below our costs last year for providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients. Our simple goal is to push for legislation that would level the playing field and improve payment so we can continue to provide the care our patients have come to expect and deserve.

The highlights of our trip included a meeting of tweeners from around the country pledging to work together to coordinate our efforts and build a stronger voice to get our message heard. We also got educated on the latest efforts by our law makers and the Obama administration to reform healthcare. There seems to be a great deal of optimism that we will see legislation yet this year that will fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered and paid for in our country. As we heard over and over again, "the devil will be in the details." We wait to see just exactly what Congress will develop.

When talking to many Congressional leaders specifically about GRMC's payment issues, we were heartened to hear not only a thorough understanding of the unfair payment we receive, but a strong commitment to get the issue addressed this year. We had the great fortune to have dinner with Congressman Boswell on Monday evening and lunch with Congressman Braley on Tuesday. We also meet with both Senators Grassley and Harkin later that afternoon. There is no question that our congressional delegation is leading the effort to both reform healthcare and also address this specific issue that plagues GRMC. I am grateful for their efforts. I took along stories from more than 40 GRMC patients. You can read them here.

I also want to assure everyone that GRMC leaders are watching our pennies as we push for payment improvements. I am willing to bet that members of our delegation were the only ones attending the AHA annual meeting who shared hotel rooms - the ladies in one room, the gentlemen in another. Best of all, there was a power outage in our hotel Sunday night for eight hours. After we asked, the hotel agreed to not to charge us for that day. We took turns covering meals and taxis, and several of the board members covered their own costs. I believe this is going above and beyond, given these individuals are donating their time to go and advocate for the patients served by GRMC. Finally, I personally paid the cost for our intern to attend the meeting and will also cover her summer stipend. The legislation we are pushing for would increase GRMC's Medicare payment from between $800,000 and $1.6 million per year - so obviously the investment in travel to Washington is worth it if we can make it happen!

We managed to do some sightseeing between meetings and visits on Capitol Hill. Here are a couple photos of interest:

Standing in the "Soup Line" at the FDR Memorial hoping for a little relief from our lawmakers on our Tweener issue.

Ed and Michelle contemplating the day standing at the foot of Abraham Lincoln looking at the Washington Monument in the distance.

Taking our message to Capitol Hill.

We even stopped by the "Senate ATM" to try to get our share of the Federal stimulus funds, to no avail.

Finally, Ed thought maybe he could just jump over the fence at the White House to talk directly to President Obama. We talked him out of that idea!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.