Mizeur of­fers up­date on ru­ral health care study

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL - By DO­RIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­tynews.com

WOR­TON — The sta­tus and ex­pec­ta­tions of an on­go­ing study to bet­ter de­liver ru­ral health care to Kent County and the rest of the Eastern Shore were dis­cussed Thurs­day, Oct. 20.

Held dur­ing HomePorts’ Health & Well­ness Expo at Kent County High School in Wor­ton, the dis­cus­sion was led by Mary­land Ru­ral Health Care De­liv­ery Work Group Co-Chair­man Deb­o­rah Mizeur.

Mizeur, who owns Apoth­e­o­sis Herbs in Chestertown, has a va­ri­ety of ex­pe­ri­ence in health care poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion.

She cred­ited the Save Our Hos­pi­tal cam­paign, which led to the re­ten­tion of in­pa­tient beds at Shore Med­i­cal Cen­ter at Chestertown un­til 2020, as a ma­jor force to­ward hav­ing the study done.

“I’m ex­cited and grate­ful to the cam­paign, be­cause it not only saved the hos­pi­tal, but it also al­lows us to look more broadly and see what makes sense for us,” Mizeur said.

Dr. Wayne Ben­jamin, a leader in the Save Our Hos­pi­tal cam­paign, said its cur­rent fo­cus is “on the re­cruit­ment of qual­ity physi­cians and in­creased ser­vices.”

Mizeur said the ru­ral health care work group, which was formed by the Mary­land Health Care Com­mis­sion to con­duct the study, held its first meet­ing in Au­gust.

She said the group con­sists of 32 mem­bers, who have di­vided into four sub­groups, based on ar­eas of ex­per­tise, to find dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions.

“We’re for­tu­nate that a lot of the prob­lems have been iden­ti­fied,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of study in ru­ral ar­eas and what the chal­lenges are, so we have a blank slate where we can de­sign what­ever we want.”

Mizeur said the study is cen­tered around is­sues like find­ing spe­cific needs for var­i­ous vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions — such as those in re­mote ar­eas, the el­derly and mi­nori­ties — and trans­porta­tion and proper ac­cess to care.

Oth­ers are de­vel­op­ing a health care work­force, at­tract­ing more physi­cians to ru­ral ar­eas and look­ing at the eco­nomic im­pacts a hos­pi­tal can have on a com­mu­nity.

“We’re look­ing at what makes sense and us­ing the pa­tient to or­ga­nize our op­tions,” she said. “You have to think, ‘What does the pa­tient ac­tu­ally need?’”

Mizeur said a ru­ral hos­pi­tal and var­i­ous health ser­vices avail­able to a com­mu­nity are key fac­tors in re­li­able care. She said ac­cess to pri­mary care physi­cians is cru­cial.

“We’re try­ing to find con­crete ways that can link all those re­sources to­gether,” Mizeur said. “We’ve started an as­sess­ment to look at avail­able re­sources and see where the gaps are.”

She said the work group has 12 months to com­plete the study. Af­ter sub­mit­ting a fi­nal re­port next year, leg­is­la­tors will re­view it dur­ing the 2018 Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion.

The group’s rec­om­men­da­tions then will un­dergo a reg­u­la­tory process if ap­proved.

“There’s a much longer tra­jec­tory for when th­ese pro­grams are avail­able,” Mizeur said. “There is a gen­eral in­ter­est in learn­ing what ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties do well.”

She said her vi­sion for ru­ral health care in­volves strong pa­tient and physi­cian re­la­tion­ships, and the pro­mo­tion of small com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals. She said they can ben­e­fit a heal­ing process bet­ter than “larger in­sti­tu­tions.”

Other fac­tors are hav­ing health care providers as­sist with the sys­tem and proper health ed­u­ca­tion in the schools.

“It should be some­thing that is re­silient, adapt­able and alive,” Mizeur said. “We’ll need co­op­er­a­tion with ev­ery­one.”

While an­swer­ing ques­tions from the au­di­ence, she en­cour­aged ev­ery­one to stay in­volved with the study’s progress.

The next meet­ing of the Mary­land Ru­ral Health Care De­liv­ery Work Group is Nov. 1 at the Hy­att Re­gency in Cam­bridge.

Mizeur said the fol­low­ing meet­ing is in Jan­uary and pos­si­bly will be held in Chestertown.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the work group, visit www. mhcc.mary­land.gov/mhcc/ pages/home/work­groups/ work­groups_ ru­ral_ health. aspx.

PHOTO BY DO­RIAN MITCHELL

Dr. Wayne Ben­jamin, one of the lead­ers of the Save Our Hos­pi­tal cam­paign, speaks about the ef­fort’s progress and goals to pre­serve in­pa­tient beds at Shore Med­i­cal Cen­ter at Chestertown dur­ing an Oct. 20 dis­cus­sion.

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