On the front lines of health carePublished 10:51am Thursday, December 17, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
This week, all eyes are on health care reform. The pressure is on for lawmakers in Washington to finalize a health care reform bill and change the future of health care for Americans nationwide.
With the subject at the center of so much controversy, some believe that community hospitals, fighting the health care fight on the front lines, as the immediate facilities available to patients, are becoming more important than ever.
Despite the possibility of rising health care costs – patients need care.
“Those babies are coming whether they’re covered or not,” said Tammy Jerz, obstetrics manager at Lakeland Hospital in Niles’ birthplace center.
At Lakeland Hospital, on a bitterly cold afternoon, the atmosphere is all but cold inside the OB wing.
Every room is filled with patients, some expecting to deliver a baby or two, some already recovering and counting down the minutes until they go home.
At the nurses station, all eyes are on the patients. And these nurses, who have worked in obstetrics from the start of their careers, some for decades, already give universal health care.
They treat everyone the same despite coverage.
“As far as (the care they receive),” Kris Wilshire, R.N., said. “We don’t care, we just spoil them rotten.”
It’s a perspective on the issue that is getting buried in headlines of legislators who support or intensely oppose the health care reform package sitting before the Senate.
And as more and more people begin taking a closer look at health care in general, Jerz said the personal attention given to patients at their local community hospitals is of the utmost importance.
At Lakeland, Jerz gives the example of the capabilities offered to expectant mothers in the OB wing, mothers whose new additions may need more acute care.
In the nursery, along with all the standard equipment needed for the few initial hours of a newborn’s life, are two neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) beds.
Those beds serve as a symbol of preparedness. Lakeland doesn’t have a full NICU, but just 15 minutes away, Memorial Hospital of South Bend does.
“There’s nothing better than having your baby in a community hospital and the personal attention that you get,” Jerz said. “And if there’s a problem, we’re 15 minutes away from a Level 3 NICU.”
Jerz said the two hospitals maintain a good relationship with one another in order to offer patients a combination of capabilities. Should a newborn experience anything that would warrant neonatal care, specialists from Memorial hospital are usually already at the nursery by the time those babies are delivered, nurses and doctors from both facilities preparing those babies for transfer.
Jerz is a champion for community hospitals. She acknowledges the common misconceptions, that some patients might think they need to get to the nearest big city with a big medical facility to get quality care.
Community hospitals, she said, are offering quality care, the latest technology and combination of services – such as the recent alignment of the hospital with Southwestern Medical Clinic P.C., and its relationship with nearby facilities to provide the best care possible.
As the future of health care remains uncertain, at Lakeland Hospital, Jerz and the nurses who keep her OB station running smoothly insist that health care is alive and well in the hallways of the hospital.
A sign of relief in some cases, considering a recent report out of Michigan’s Department of Community Health. The June report, which bases its data from census and yearly interviews with non-elderly residents stated data collected between 2005 and 2007, estimates 1.1 million uninsured residents in Michigan.