Carson Tahoe Hospital (CTH) has a positive story to tell, and I want to help the hospital tell it. Yes, I know the “H” stands for Health, but I still call it a hospital.
I attended an informative “Healthcare Behind the Headlines” briefing at the hospital late last month and was impressed by the progress our local hospital has made in recent years under the direction of recently retired CEO Ed Epperson. We can only hope his successor, Alan Garrett, who took over last Monday, will pick up where Epperson left off.
The well-prepared briefer, CTH Foundation Director Kitty McKay, cited some eye-catching statistics on what’s been going on at our hospital. “While the national outlook for not-for-profit hospitals is negative, we had our best financial year ever in 2018,” she said, “and our credit rating was upgraded from BBB Positive to A- with a stable outlook.” And moreover, CTH earned a four-star rating from the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS), making it one of only 1,380 U.S. hospitals to earn a four- or five-star rating out of 3,724 hospitals surveyed. That puts CTH in the upper echelon of American hospitals.
CTH, St. Mary’s and Renown South Meadows are the only four-star hospitals in Northern Nevada. Carson Valley Medical Center and Northern Nevada Medical Center earned three CMS stars, and Reno’s Renown is a one-star hospital. So why go to Reno for advanced surgical procedures when our local hospital has a much higher rating for outcomes and patient satisfaction?
McKay also noted the shortage of doctors and nurses in American hospitals. She said 1.1 million new nurses will be needed by next year and 90,000 doctors by 2025. Nevertheless, CTH has been successful in training, hiring and retaining medical personnel. CTH has hired approximately 200 nursing graduates since 2014 in groups of 20 to 25 twice a year, in June and December. During a CTH job fair in March, 90 nurses applied for 11 available positions.
According to McKay, an effective Nurse Transition Program helps nursing graduates move from novice to professional status. CTH has also entered into a productive alliance with the University of Nevada (UNR) Medical School to train, hire and retain doctors. Our hospital has hired 28 doctors since 2017 in specialized fields like cardiology, oncology and internal medicine.
One of the most impressive CTH accomplishments has been its alliances with top-rated University of Utah Health System and its elite Huntsman Cancer Institute. McKay said the Huntsman/Utah medical alliances “offer CTH world-class research, support and educational resources.” I’ve been proud to contribute to the CTH Cancer Center ever since my late wife Consuelo passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2003.
McKay says a $24 million computerized records-keeping project in collaboration with the University of Utah “will improve employee and patient satisfaction through improved clinical workflows, and improve recruitment and retention of medical staff.” The innovative “EPIC” system will share medical records between CTH, Renown, Barton, Carson Valley Medical Center and Tahoe Forest Hospital at North Lake Tahoe.
Looking to the future, CTH will see 13 percent growth in its service area and 23 percent growth in the over-65 patient population by 2025. The hospital’s preparing for these increases by constructing a $27 million “Sierra Connector” between buildings and a $13 million Emergency Department expansion, scheduled for completion by spring, 2021. It’s “strategic investing.”
Mayor Bob Crowell, who attended the CTH briefing, told me “access to quality healthcare is a critical component of a successful community” and CTH “is an essential part of what makes Carson City a wonderful place to live.” I agree 100 percent.
Guy W. Farmer has been a Carson City resident since 1962.