Collaborating on rural health

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 11/25/20

HONESDALE, PA — At a time when the reliability of local health systems seems more important than ever, the Wayne County Commissioners heard from two major community health care providers in …

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Collaborating on rural health

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HONESDALE, PA — At a time when the reliability of local health systems seems more important than ever, the Wayne County Commissioners heard from two major community health care providers in recognition of Rural Health Day on November 19.

CEO and president Linda Thomas-Hemak spoke on behalf of the Lackawanna County-based Wright Center for Community Health, which expanded its reach into Wayne County earlier this year.

The Wright Center’s move to the area via its new clinic in Hawley was borne out of necessity and tragedy, Thomas-Hemak said. Until last year, as part of an ongoing effort to address the opioid crisis in Northeast Pennsylvania, the Wright Center had been working with a local community doctor named Gary Good who treated patients suffering from addiction and HIV.

“In the middle of developing that working network, Gary Good had an untimely death, and that left a significant amount of his patients overnight without continuation of that medication-assisted therapy,” Thomas-Hemak said. “That gap led to a crisis in the lives of several citizens of Wayne County.”

Thomas-Hemak said she immediately called Wayne Memorial Community Health Center Executive Director Fred Jackson to get his blessing for the Wright Center to come to Wayne and fill the gap of medication-assisted therapy Dr. Good left behind. PA Treatment & Healing (PATH) provided rent-free facilities for the center to offer its services to Good’s patients.

With the support of Justin Genzlinger, who owns Settlers Hospitality, and some grant funding, the Wright Center now has a permanent location in Hawley, open five days a week and offering sick visits, routine examinations, behavioral health services, addiction and recovery services and “treatment of any illness or injuries not requiring a trip to the emergency room.”

Thomas-Hemak said that the Wright Center is joining the community with a “spirit of collaboration” and that it’s “not going to step onto any toes.”

Wayne Memorial Hospital CEO Dave Hoff thanked the commissioners for its continued support through the years.

“We are one of the more successful rural hospitals—I’ll just say hospitals—in the state of Pennsylvania, if not in the northeast United States,” Hoff said, adding that it’s focused on growing and expanding. Wayne Memorial grew substantially last year, doubling its number of single rooms by adding a new wing, a $40 million investment.

Hoff said that he and his team are now looking to create a “rural home hospital” program, which would allow patients to receive acute medical services at home.

“If we’re successful in developing that, we’ll be one of the first rural hospitals in the United States to do that,” he said.

Hoff also said that the hospital has benefited from a large volunteer base, which amounts to around 400 people between the board and auxiliary.

“When I tell my colleagues from much larger hospitals [about our volunteers] they cannot believe it,” he said. “Most hospital auxiliaries have disappeared.”

Chairman Brian Smith used to be an employee at Wayne Memorial, and said that he was proud to work there then, and is now proud to live in a community that is served by rural health care providers like the hospital and the Wright Center.

“Thank you all for all the collaboration, all the hard work working together, the cooperation going forward,” Smith said. “I think through that spirit we will all be better served.”

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