MALONE – Residents of Malone and surrounding communities packed the gymnasium Tuesday night at the St. Andre Outreach Center to voice their concerns and seek answers at a community forum in the village.
Meeting for more than two hours, representatives from Alice Hyde Medical Center, the University of Vermont Health Network and the Malone Hospital Board of Trustees answered questions from the public, after giving presentations on their efforts to maintain health services in the north of the country and in Malone.
Residents urged hospital administrators to value community needs, bring in more doctors and provide more services to Alice Hyde.
UVM Health Network began operating Alice Hyde in May 2016.
Malone Hospital board member Robert G. Main, Jr. said he wanted the evening’s dialogue to be forward-looking.
“No matter what specifically drew you here, it just matters that you care enough to be here,” Main said. “I hope you will agree that we are all in this together, there shouldn’t be us and them to this, as I look at it, we are all us, even if we disagree on some points. We all want the same thing, the best possible health care, as close to home as possible.”
Main said Alice Hyde Medical Center needs strong community support for the plans being developed to ensure successful health care in the northern part of Franklin County.
“I hope when you leave tonight you will understand that our boats float better together,” Main said.
Administrators said the staffing issues faced by Malone Hospital are not unique to the North Country and are present in the healthcare industry across the country,” according to Michelle LeBeau, President of Alice Hyde. .
“Rural health care is in this really dramatic space, where in order for us to continue to provide the care that our communities need, we need to think about how we’re going to do things differently,” LeBeau said. . “We share doctors in an area so we have more doctors to recruit, some redundancy, and we have a cohesive theme of care, and I know right now you’re not necessarily feeling that, but I want you commit to what we work diligently.
After the presentations, several questions from the audience focused on the sense that within the University of Vermont health network, Malone has a third-tier status behind Burlington, Vt. and Plattsburgh.
“That’s one of the things we realized at the village meeting is that we as a community feel like we’re third,” Merrill McKee said. “You have UVM in Burlington, then you have Plattsburgh and then you have us, that’s how we feel. We think we’re not as big as Plattsburgh, we’re not as big as Burlington.
“I know you came today and thank you so much for being here,” McKee added. “But I think that’s really what we wanted the people of Burlington to know.”
Tuesday’s community forum followed a workshop at the village office in June, when the public also expressed concerns about the future of health services in the north of the country.
McKee echoed comments he made at the June workshop regarding the importance of the hospital within the Malone community.
“Our hospital is the cornerstone of our community,” he said. “If this cornerstone disintegrates, the whole community will disintegrate.”
McKee, a prison officer, said some of his colleagues chose to go to other hospitals instead of Alice Hyde due to the lack of services currently offered at Malone Hospital.
“Just from the perspective of my fellow officers, I have a lot of officers who are refusing to go to Alice Hyde right now,” he said. “They choose to go elsewhere because we don’t have the services.”
McKee suggested the health network hire a community liaison to help market the area to potential doctors in an effort to attract more doctors and provide more services for Alice Hyde.
“How do we get academic doctors to come and do residencies here at Malone? Is this a possibility? he said.
Dr. John Brumsted, CEO of UVM Health Network, was receptive to the idea of a community liaison position.
“I think it’s a great idea and I would really like to see it, having a group of community members that we could meet frequently,” Brumsted said. “Not just to tell you what’s going on, but to let you know what you think, many communities have an advisory group. It could certainly be something that could come out of a meeting like this, because it’s not a one-time conversation; we must maintain the meeting and the dialogue.
During his opening address, Brumsted underlined the health network’s commitment to the north of the country.
“We’re not going anywhere. We made that commitment and we will be there,” Brumsted said. “We can do better to recruit the professionals we need and to retain the professionals we need.”
Linda Bouissey continued comments on attracting residents to the hospital by emphasizing the importance of hiring full-time physicians.
“Residents are great, but they can’t work alone, they have to have supervising physicians. Until we at Malone can get these supervising physicians here, we won’t be able to have residents,” Bouissey said. “I hope we are focusing on recruiting doctors. I just lost my primary care provider.
Dr Anthony Conti, a radiologist who has worked at Alice Hyde since 2008, said a number of his colleagues had left the hospital in recent years and he feared the gutting of the hospital could have consequences. disastrous consequences for the whole community.
“What kind of business would move to Malone if there was no OB-GYN? How do you recruit a new elementary school teacher if there is no OB-GYN? Machining would open a factory in Malone if there was no general surgery to address their concerns? How will Titus survive if there is no ortho to fix the fractures, and that about all the men and women who work in prisons?” Conti said, “These decisions should not be made outside of Malone. These decisions to have a surgeon or not to have a surgeon must be made here. Maybe we can have one, maybe we can’t, but they should be made here, because we bear the consequences of this decision.
Elizabeth Kline, a registered nurse with the AdirondackArc, an organization that works to provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, encouraged the health system to provide more training opportunities on autism and dementia with developmental disabilities.
“This particular community is home to two residential programs that support people with disabilities, developmental and intellectual. They don’t have the ability to speak for themselves, most of them,” Kline said. “We don’t see good quality health care for the people we support; we don’t see respect for them as human beings overall.
Village administrator C. Archie McKee said he believed concerns about Alice Hyde’s future had been sparked by the closure of the maternity ward at Malone Hospital in March.
“I think one of the reasons this community concern really started was when we lost motherhood,” he said. “When it finally happened, I guess we realized, ‘OK, there are issues.’ I’m sure there are a number of people here, like me, who are wondering in the future what we might be looking over our shoulder for what other departments or departments we stand to lose. We’re all a little scared of what might happen, nervous and uneducated to some degree I’m curious what other services you might be scared of losing?
According to LeBeau, there was no discussion about cutting additional services at Malone Hospital.
“Our goal is actually to bring other services here,” LeBeau said. “There is no conversation about eliminating any other service.”
Jill Benware, a registered nurse at Alice Hyde, asked the community to support hospital workers as the healthcare conversation continues.
“I know many are worried about the closure of the maternity ward and the loss of some of our doctors. Yes, it saddens me as well, but it’s time our community started supporting our hospital,” Benware said. “Support our staff who have worked and will continue to work during a very difficult pandemic,” she said. “Think before you speak; your words hurt us. Don’t blame the hospital. It’s our company. Essex and Franklin counties are two of the poorest counties in the state. Why don’t we use- we not our voices to increase jobs in our community, support programs that help manage chronic illnesses at home and programs to increase home care and increase outpatient mental health treatment in our community? , we need the support of the community.
Other public comments throughout the evening focused on the long wait times within the hospital emergency department and the detrimental impact of having to travel out of county for treatment, whether whether in Plattsburgh or Vermont.
Main said the upcoming community health care public forum will focus on physician recruitment and retention.
“Obviously we’ve scratched the surface, but we haven’t exhausted the conversation. We will continue the conversation. Just myself listening to what you’ve asked or commented on, it’s clear that physician recruitment and retention is at the top of your mind,” Main said. “We will continue the discussion as long as there is a will to do so.”
Linda Bouissey stressed the importance of hiring doctors during the community forum on Tuesday evening. Telegram from Alexander Violo/Malone
Dr Anthony Conti, radiologist at Alice Hyde, expressed concern that a loss of services at the hospital could have a detrimental impact on the wider community, at the community forum on Tuesday evening. Telegram from Alexander Violo/Malone