Forty-one years of volunteering for Delta County Memorial Hospital was celebrated with a Mardi Gras theme Saturday, Feb. 18. About 70 Pink Ladies, Red Barons and guests attended the annual banquet and meeting in the oncology classrooms on the Delta County Memorial Hospital campus. The meal was catered by C & J's Café to rave reviews.
This year two volunteers, Sondra Webb and Peg Lucy, were awarded pins for 40 years of service. They were two of the founding members of the "Pink Ladies."
In 2016 the DCMH Volunteers contributed 15,059 total hours with Junior Volunteers dedicating another 550 hours.
Recognized for hours and years of service were:
500 hours -- Ed Sisson and Elizabeth Lillien.
1,000 hours -- Priscilla Ake, Dora Allen, JoAnn Carrington, Robin Dunham, Elaine Heinz, Lynn Williams and Carol Ann Lyons.
2,000 hours -- Barbara Hoffart, Nancy Hofman and Jean Leszczyski.
6,000 hours -- Mary Lou Smith.
Five years -- Travis Miller, Barbara Schmalz and Priscilla Ake.
10 years -- Shirley Clayton and Joyce Polfer.
40 years -- Sondra Webb and Peg Lucy.
Volunteer officers re-elected in an installation ceremony hosted by Joyce Picard included: Ida Walden, president; Pricilla Ake, vice president; Joyce Polfer, secretary. Treasurers switched posts with Carol Lyons as general fund treasurer and Lynn Williams as gift shop treasurer.
President Ida Walden stated that the DCMH Volunteers contributed $7,000 in health care related educational scholarships to Delta County students and $400 to the DCMH Foundation in memory of volunteers who had passed away the past year.
Guests included Jason Cleckler, hospital CEO; Thelma Starner, president of DCMH Foundation; and Tessie Hartman, Cleckler's partner.
Cleckler reflected on his 27 years of working in health care, with the past five years as DCMH CEO, commenting that health care is certainly facing ongoing uncertain times with recent political changes. He emphasized the triple aim of health care for the hospital is to improve quality, improve access and decrease costs.
Cleckler stated that hospital revenue is now primarily coming from outpatient services such as medical imaging, lab, day surgery, emergency department and Urgent Care.
He updated the audience on new 3D mammography and recent developments with Grand Mesa Oncology Center with a new integrative oncologist, music and art therapy, stress reduction programs and a nurse navigator to assist patients. Lymphedema services are also now available and soon massage and acupuncture will be value-added benefits.
The clinics have been working hard on improving efficiencies, volume, patient satisfaction and accessibility in a timely manner, the hospital CEO commented. With a new focus on outpatient wellness and preventative care, additional Tai Chi classes and Stepping On balance classes are being offered.
"This is the right thing to do for our community to now refocus our priorities on wellness and prevention," Cleckler stated.
In the North Fork, Cleckler said the new Hotchkiss clinic is being framed, and a building is being remodeled for a Paonia walk-in clinic which is expected to open later this spring.
Cleckler provided a summary of political issues facing health care since the election and the likelihood of repeal or replacement of the Affordable Care Act by President Trump and the Republican dominated House and Senate.
He said his number one issue is the crisis in mental health in our county and in our state. In 2016 mental health patients outnumbered trauma patients in the emergency department. DCMH clinics are integrating mental health into primary care settings to assist patients with physical or mental health issues.
Cleckler's number two health care issue is cuts to the state provider fee. In 2016 statewide budget cuts resulted in a significant reduction to this hospital. More cuts are proposed for 2017. He warned that if these cuts are more substantial, six to seven rural hospitals could close and hospitals across the state would be considering reduced services, layoffs, wage freezes and other drastic measures to remain in business.
"In spite of these uncertain times in health care, I remain optimistic about the future of Delta County Memorial Hospital. Our progressive approach has us well positioned to flex with even more changes in the years to come," Cleckler concluded.
He announced DCMH has been named in the top 100 rural hospitals in the nation by Becker's Review, along with Montrose Memorial Hospital and Sterling MedCenter. Cleckler was also awarded Top 60 Rural CEOs to Know by Becker's Review as well.
The Paonia Town Board of Trustees is considering sanctions against a trustee after he released a series of board-related emails during a recent public meeting.
At the May 9 board meeting, trustee Bill Brunner provided copies of emails, sent during 2016 and 2017, to the media and the town clerk.