The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

CCHS to operate Walla Walla University clinic

 

September 1, 2022

Courtesy Photo

CCHS Director of Clinic Services Kim Emery will oversee College Place Health Clinic on the Walla Walla University campus.

DAYTON--Last week, Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire provided updates on different initiatives at the monthly meeting of the hospital board of commissioners.

He spoke about the partnership with Walla Walla University in College Place for CCHS to operate its on-campus health care clinic. CCHS had been working on the partnership for over a year. The University clinic is located near campus and had been without an operator since COVID-19.

Many of the current CCHS providers and therapy department members are alumni of the University and McGuire said in an email to The Times that the district enjoys a great relationship with them, so it explored a partnership opportunity. After negotiating the operating agreement and interviewing several provider candidates, CCHS was pleased to hire Stephanie Bennett, ARNP as the clinic provider.

Kim Emery, Director of Clinic Services at CCHS, will oversee the clinic located in the campus bookstore building. The clinic will serve the university's 1900 students, faculty members, their families, and anyone living in the Columbia County Hospital District.

College Place Health Clinic will open by the start of classes on Sept. 26. Hours are daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

"We're really excited about the opportunity to provide that service," McGuire told the commissioners.

He said the experience gained from operating this clinic would be beneficial when planning a walk-in clinic for either Dayton or Waitsburg. The CCHS included plans for a walk-in clinic in its 2022-2027 Strategic Plan.

The need to increase patient beds at Dayton General Hospital (DGH) was also discussed at the hospital board meeting last week. The demand for skilled nursing beds both locally and in the State remains very high.

As a critical access hospital, the hospital has been licensed for 25-beds, with beds located in various places around the building over the years. McGuire said the hospital will increase the bed count to 15 through strategically arranging services throughout the facility. Seven beds will be kept in Hall 1 of Booker for long term care patients and three additional beds will be located upstairs to meet the 25-bed licensed requirement. This means three of the 15 rooms on the Acute/Swing wing will have two beds in them.

The dentist at Columbia Family Dental Clinic, Audra Morgan, DDS, is leaving to take a job in Walla Walla. CCHS is seeking applicants for that position as well as for a dental hygienist.

People with childcare or education experience and healthcare professionals are invited to help score and select the right candidate to operate the childcare center planned for the DGH campus. McGuire said that the project is moving forward as planned.

Rivers Walk Assisted Living will hold an open house for the public on Sept. 8, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. McGuire said a virtual tour of a staged cottage is available on the CCHS website at https://tinyurl.com/2ur75h6m. The Rivers Walk Assisted Living facilities could be fully operational around the first part of October.

Rivers Walk Assisted Living will be staffed with a mix of Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN) and Health Care Aides (HCA), according to Stephanie Carpenter, CCHS COO. Certified Nursing Assistants are essential in providing direct patient care in health care settings, including home care, long-term care, assisted living, hospice, adult family homes, and hospitals. Carpenter said becoming a CNA is one of the first steps in becoming a Registered Nurse. She said it was how she began her career in nursing.

While the Home Care Aide program is less intensive than the CNA program, it can also serve as a path to career development. Carpenter says that HCAs are employed in home health care and assisted living settings.

The start date for the six-week CNA course is Oct. 1, according to Kimberly Lake, Employee Health and Wellness Nurse. The course will include classroom time, a lab with hands-on skills education, and clinical rotations in the Acute Care Department. Upon successful completion, students will be able to take the state exams.

For more information, reach out to the Human Resources Department at CCHS.

Back when the health system had an infusion of cash from Medicare for help during the height of the pandemic, the number of days of cash on hand was around 48. Since then, that number has dropped to 20.

McGuire said those Medicare advanced payments were always meant to be returned and were available for use only in a worst-case scenario.

"We did not use those funds at all and just sat on them as a safety net."

Neither the CEO nor CFO, Matt Minor, were overly concerned about having only 20 days of cash for operations.

There are 1.3 million dollars, outside of normal Accounts Receivable, owed to the district. These funds are reimbursement from Medicaid for dental claims and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) for patient care. Payment is expected by mid-September.

Minor told the commissioners that medical billers had been hired to collect money owed more quickly. Steps are being taken to improve accuracy in medical billing coding, which should help with immediate cash flow.

"As a small, rural hospital, we always have to manage our days' cash on hand closely," McGuire said.

He also pointed out that operating costs have increased since 2019, not just locally but in the health care industry nationally.

 

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