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The Board of Trustees of Geary Community Hospital heard from Community Hospital Corporation Planning Manager Valerie Hayes and Vice President of Planning Lisette Hudson about an upcoming community health assessment.

According to Hudson, such assessments are required for nonprofit hospitals every three years. GCH is not a nonprofit, but according to Hudson, GCH conducts such studies periodically “ as a best practice” and has done so twice before.

She spoke about what she called “the social determinants of health.”

“One of the key things there is thinking about non clinical factors that ultimately influence the individual’s health outcome,” Hudson said. “Those can be things like where you live, work, play — they can be or your education, your background — but a whole host of things that ultimately influence your healthcare from a non-clinical perspective.”

If someone lives in a neighborhood which suffers from certain disadvantages — such as the lack of a nearby grocery store where they can purchase fresh, healthy, reasonably priced produce — or if they lack access to reliable transportation, that can impact their health. Living in a home impacted by environmental factors such as radon, lead and mold can also have an influence on someone’s health.

Everything in a person’s life from access to early childhood education to employment can impact their longterm health.

“If you’re deciding between paying bills or buying medications, that can certainly impact your health along with unhealthy food versus a healthy diet,” Hudson said.

It can, she said, be “a vicious cycle” and difficult to help patients extricate themselves from the continuing circle of habits and health problems.

A community health assessment takes such factors into consideration using data from a wide variety of community organizations.

Hayes said GCH could then use the data gathered to create an action plan to improve community health overall.

“In having a data report, it’s much easier to identify and better understand the social determinants of health that their patients may be facing that doctors and nurses may not see as patients lay in a hospital bed,” she said. “But when they leave the hospital, they may face those challenges and it’s a great way for the hospital to assert themselves and better address the social determinants of health in their communities.”

According to Hayes, GCH is currently in the process of conducting this year’s health assessment, which started in the summer of 2019.

An electronic survey was recently distributed relating to the health assessment, according to Hayes. This survey is anonymous, unless a person chooses to identify themselves.

“Once we have all that data collected and analyzed here over the next few weeks, we will review the data with the hospital team and identify the most significant health needs in Geary County,” she said.

The assessment will then be used to create an action plan for improving health in the county.

According to Hudson, this could mean GCH working with organizations in the community outside of itself.

“Putting those forces together can really produce better outcomes than either organization could do on their own,” she said.

Hudson offered examples such as hospitals that distributed flu shots for the price of a donated nonperishable item for a local food pantry or donations of other needed supplies such as blankets which the hospital or a local organization could distribute to those in need. Another solution adopted by other communities is a “walk with a doc” program. This allows people in need of a primary care doctor to gather with physicians in a park and talk to them, not to receive any kind of medical advice but to determine which doctor would best suit their needs.

GCH’s solutions may be different from other communities’ solutions, Hudson said.

“These are not your complex, complicated activities that you would typically see in an implementation plan,” she said. “These are definitely some of the more lighthearted — some of the ones that don’t have a significant price tag associated with them that certainly have a way to benefit the community.”

Interim CFO Mike Johns presented GCH with its financial report.

In December, GCH experienced a small net profit of about $9,000, he said. Inpatient admissions and surgeries were down for GCH in December compared to previous months, according to Johns. Outpatient visits rose in December.

About 60 surgeries took place at GCH in December.

“On a year-to date basis, we still have a loss about $2.5 million but that was that is $1.1 million, almost $1.2 million better than we were in the prior year,” Johns said. “So we are making progress. We had a decent month for the month of December … I hope January would be even better, given that we didn’t have a holiday.”

Cash on hand is still low, with the number of days’ worth remaining in the single digits, he said.

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