SHERIDAN — While attendees of a public listening session Tuesday praised Sheridan Memorial Hospital for its comprehensive facility and staff, concerns about the rising cost of health care and the need for additional mental health services were also discussed.
Tuesday’s was the first of three public listening sessions at the Best Western Sheridan Center that provide an opportunity for the public to give feedback about care offered at SMH and brainstorm new ways to keep Sheridan County’s medical service in pace with changing times.
SMH CEO Mike McCafferty said that the growth of the hospital and the implementation of national health care reform make now the time to identify how to best negotiate future operations. He said in the last 10 years, SMH has more than doubled the scope and volume of services provided, and the facility is now at a critical juncture in its growth.
“If you don’t change and move forward with the world around you, you will begin to decline,” McCafferty explained. “We’re not there yet, but we’re at a point when we need to figure out what is our path forward and how do we map that out as a community. We want to keep our growth curve in a positive direction.”
McCafferty said the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a new frontier in American history.
While employer-sponsored health insurance plans and Medicare took roots more than 50 years ago, medical science and society looked at health care much differently.
“It used to be that chickens and whiskey were how you paid for health care in Sheridan, and that really dramatically changed when health care insurance became part of everyday life,” McCafferty said, adding that how the ACA will affect the future of the health care industry is largely unknown, though he anticipates a decline in the amount of health care availability.
“The growth of health care is so dramatic across the United States that it’s got to change a little bit,” he said. “It’s too expensive for us as consumers and it makes it really tough, especially with high deductible plans and huge premiums. You mix huge premiums with high deductibles and pretty soon, you’re paying for your health care out of your own pocket like any other consumer.”
McCafferty recognized that health care consumers will be making decisions about quality and value of the care they purchase, and that realization was a motivator for providing a public platform for dialogue.
Attendees at Tuesday’s session, were divided into two groups and led through a discussion regarding existing merits and pitfalls of health care at SMH. Then, the group was asked to name their most immediate concerns about health care in general.
After the three questions posed were considered in-depth, each group shared the ideas generated. Common themes were praise for the hospital’s comprehensive facility and competent, personable staff, the acknowledgement that the hospital needs to work on expanding mental health services for crisis situations and unease about the affordability of health care in the future.
Two other public listening session will take place within the next week: Saturday at 10 a.m. and Monday at 6 p.m. Each will be at the Best Western Sheridan Center in the Snow Goose Room.
“We’ve had some great discussions over the past week and we have another week coming up where we have our employees and the physicians and the public participating in discussions about the future of the hospital, the future of health care in Sheridan and what is we can do to position ourselves to make sure we’re taking care of the needs of the community,” McCafferty said.