OTHER OPINION: Tennessee hospital changes will improve care

By Jackson (Tenn.) Sun

Changes announced Tuesday by West Tennessee Healthcare to the system’s hospitals in Gibson County caught many people by surprise, and raised concerns about the timely delivery of emergency medical services to some Gibson County residents. But a review of the details leads us to conclude that the changes make sense, likely will improve delivery of health care services, will protect jobs, and show careful stewardship of the health care system’s finances.
Beginning in January 2014, Gibson General in Trenton will become a medical center providing primary care, after-hours care, walk-in services, outpatient services, lab and imaging services, preventative care and post acute care, as well as Pathways services. Humboldt General Hospital will become an emergency medical care center and operate as a north emergency room campus of Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Services at Milan General Hospital will remain unchanged.
West Tennessee Heathcare President and CEO Bobby Arnold said the transitions will be undertaken with the goal of protecting the jobs of Gibson County hospital staff, who know their community and the patients they take care of.
Some Trenton area residents expressed concern about losing emergency room services at Gibson General. But records reflect only an average of 2.3 patients per night using the service.
Emergency room care is a vital medical service that can save lives, and it is reassuring to know emergency care is available. But emergency room care also is, by far, the most expensive method of delivering health care.
Health care delivery is changing across America.
Health care delivery changes such as the Trenton medical center are likely to become the model for efficient, cost conscious delivery of comprehensive primary health care services in rural communities. Greater availability of lower-cost delivery options makes sense, and are the health care wave of the future.