Mizeur offers update on rural health care study
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.
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.