The evolution of the Churchill County health board
LVN Editor Emeritus
Attendees at the monthly Churchill Economic Development Authority Business Council breakfast learned Wednesday how the Churchill County Health Board has evolved into a model for other rural counties to emulate.
By Nevada Revised Statute, every county must have a board of health, said Churchill County Commissioner Bus Scharmann. The board consists of the sheriff, all three county commissioners and a community health officer, Dr. Tedd McDonald, an obstetrician and chief medical officer at Banner Churchill Community Hospital.
Scharmann, who was with Western Nevada College at the time, said he took a strong interest in community health issues when he was asked in the early 2000s to moderate a discussion on the Fallon leukemia cluster. After he was elected to the commission in 2012, he attended a conference in San Diego the following year to learn how counties work together to improve community health.
“I learned how counties in the Midwest work together not to duplicate services and save money,” Scharmann said, adding he also gained information on the role of health boards and their purpose. “We have to ensure we have a safe community, and that’s our job.”
Scharmann, along with the other members on the board, began to reshape the board beginning in 2013 and its responsibility to address issues affecting the county and what the residents needed.
“We started to look at the experts in our community and what are the priorities we need to establish,” he said. “Now we have a series of subcommittees of experts who brought back ideas to us of what the most important items are in this county. Over the years, they brought back ideas to us and gave us information so we would establish priorities, and then we asked the experts to help the local board.”
Scharmann said concerns included the usage of methamphetamines, tobacco and alcohol as well as the problem of unexpected childbirths. From the list, Scharmann said the board them developed a comprehensive list to address teen pregnancy, behavioral health and substance abuse and how the community can seek help for individuals. The board then partnered with the Churchill Community Coalition to further develop solutions.
Because of the local improvements since 2013, Scharmann said other rural counties such as Elko and Lyon are taking notice of the Churchill County Health Board’s focus and asking for information to improve their operations.
McDonald, who graduated from Churchill County High school and attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he earned both a bachelor’s degree in biology and a medical degree from the School of Medicine before completing his internship in Texas, returned to Fallon in 2006 where he took a position with Banner. Sandwiched between obtaining his bachelor’s and medical degrees, however, McDonald earned a doctorate degree from the Pacific University College of Optometry and opened an optometry business in Fallon for 11 years.
McDonald is bullish on Fallon.
“It’s a good place to be, a good place to work and a good place to be from,” he said.
Since the county’s health board beefed up its purpose, he said the board has been able to bring people together and apply for funding and grants. By working with Banner, both entities began to assemble data.
“The last three or four years, the Board of Health has been getting information together when we can recognize situations and then for help like in the form of grants,” he added.
McDonald said the county now has a program to address family planning and established multi-disciplinary teams from social services, law enforcement and the hospital who work together. He said the goal has been to increase partnerships for increased responses. The board, according to McDonald, is being proactive to address the West Nile Virus, which could occur in Churchill County this year. He said several cases in 2017 showed signs of West Nile Virus and encephalitis (brain inflammation caused by a virus; symptoms include headache, neck pain, drowsiness, nausea and fever).
He said other resources have been implemented including telemedicine and additional services for behavioral health, which he said Banner is one of the top hospitals in Nevada for providing assistance. Although Banner is a small hospital, he said local physicians are able to work with their counterparts at other Banner Health facilities.
“We’re not a little hospital anymore,” he said.
In 2016, Banner was one of three Nevada hospitals honored by HeathInsight, a nonprofit health care collaborative, for its high performance in quality care measures and patient satisfaction. Previous accolades have included receiving top honors as Banner’s Best of the Best award that recognizes the health care organization’s top hospitals, health centers and clinics. Banner Churchill won in the small hospital category.
Additionally, Banner Health recognized the local hospital for providing exceptional patient experience, high performance in clinical quality and high performance in system efficiency and learning among small hospitals.
“My goal is to make our community better,” McDonald said.