To kick off the annual Delta County Memorial Hospital Volunteer banquet, a new ceremony was held to honor volunteers or spouses who had passed away. Carlene Dougan, a longtime volunteer who lost her husband Bert (also a volunteer), lit the memory candle.
Over 75 volunteers attended the Mardi Gras themed banquet and enjoyed a meal from C & J Café on Feb. 17. Founding members of the group were acknowledged including Dorothy Loyer, 98 years old, Peg Lucy and Sondra Webb.
Jason Cleckler, hospital CEO, shared his keynote address with the hospital volunteers. He mentioned a recent ski accident that required surgery, telling jokes which delighted his audience. Cleckler thanked the volunteers profusely for donating over 16,000 hours in 2017 to DCMH. He spoke of the hospital being proactive, rather than reactive with the challenges in 2017 including reforms of Medicaid and Medicare, economic development in Delta County and political issues affecting health care at both the state and federal levels. Cleckler talked about the community needs assessments which identified behavioral/mental health, affordability and access as key health care concerns locally from community members and regionally in a joint community needs assessment with the hospitals in Gunnison and Montrose.
A summary of top accomplishments for DCMH in 2017 were presented by the hospital CEO and included:
• Behavioral health was integrated into the hospital's primary care clinics, and a regional coalition was established to work jointly on behavior health issues.
• Building and opening the new West Elk Clinic - Hotchkiss, a 10,000 square foot clinic now seeing between 80-120 new patients each month. West Elk Walk-in Clinic was opened in Paonia.
• Addressing transparency issues about price and affordability. In compliance with new legislation from the state, prices are posted on the hospital website.
• Emphasis on collaboration over competition -- working closely with other entities, hospitals and health care facilities. Cleckler said the future of health care is collaboration; perhaps the next step is to collaborate with insurance companies to benefit patients in the future.
• DCMH was named in the Top 100 rural community hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row by The Chartis Center for Rural Health.
• The surgery department managed to again lower the surgical site infection rate to 0.15 percent, when the national average for surgical site infection rates is between three and five percent.
"We are facing even more challenges in 2018, but a new strategic plan created by every single hospital employee was then that was melded into the overall strategic plan for the hospital was orchestrated by the hard work of Jody Roeber, chief clinical officer. Areas of emphasis in 2018 include financial viability, continuing to provide quality care with 'all hands on deck contributing,' and exploring new types of services to offer to the families of our community," explained Cleckler.
Cleckler said the priorities for this new year of 2018 are: behavioral health and addressing the "emergency" of the opioid epidemic. He cited a statistic that the number one cause of death for people age 50 and younger is now overdose from opioid drugs. There will be an increased focus on transparency issues for health care including pricing and access.
The hospital CEO informed the audience that with changes in health care from past years, now the patient/consumer is the number one payer for health care, as patients pay increasingly more out of pocket for their own health care. "Clearly those of us in the health care business want to make sure we are listening to what our patient/consumers want and what is important to them including access, affordability and convenience," Cleckler said. He also stated that virtual visits with physicians will begin at the end of February at the West Elk Clinic in Hotchkiss, following a national trend to make health care more convenient.
"We are moving away from the traditional illness model of health care and now are concentrating on wellness and preventative health in a healthier environment," explained Cleckler. "Our success as a health care facility is how many people are living healthier lives with prevention and early intervention of health issues, and treating the entire person including behavioral health with the goal of helping them to stay out of the hospital."
DCMH is now offering Tai Chi, smoking cessation, massage, acupuncture, diabetes counseling, weight loss classes, yoga and even a naturopathic doctor.
Following Cleckler's presentation, volunteers were presented with pins recognizing their number of hours and years of service:
500-hour pins -- Sandy Cross, William Pomgrantz and Dorinda Capodice.
1,000-hour pins -- Barbara Hall, Susan Spinden and Michel Adams.
2,000-hour pins -- Dora Allen, Betty Trmbly, Cherrie Gilliam and Diana Neil.
3,000-hour pin -- Susan Flores, Evelyn Frazier, Mary Claxton and Rose Dittmer.
4,000-hour pin -- Sondra Webb.
5,000-hour pin -- Joyce Polfer and Clarine Johnston.
7,000-hour pin -- Peg Lucy and Janamarie Dugle.
Five years -- Lynn Williams.
Ten years -- Susan Flores, Barb Hoffart, Joyce Raley and Wilma Reever.
Twenty-five years -- Rose Marie Prince.
Thirty years -- Ruth Marvel, honorary.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.