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Griffith: More jobs would help improve health care
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Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (right), R-Salem, talks with Elizabeth Brim, a licensed practical nurse at Memorial Hospital in Martinsville, while touring the hospital on Monday. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The best thing to improve the health care system in Henry County and Martinsville ultimately would be an influx of jobs for area residents, 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith said Monday.

That is “easier said than done,” though, said Griffith, R-Salem.

Working people are better able to afford private medical insurance, he said after touring Memorial Hospital and meeting with its officials privately.

Having private insurance would prompt people to see primary care doctors when they get sick, which could cause them to get care for ailments sooner, and that could improve their outcomes, according to Skip Philips, the hospital’s chief executive officer.

It also could lead to fewer patients in the hospital’s emergency department, which is designed to treat people who are injured or seriously ill.

Philips said 58 percent of Memorial’s patients receive Medicare, a federal insurance program for older and disabled people, and another 17 percent receive Medicaid, a similar program for the financially poor.

Neither program reimburses Memorial for the full cost of services that the hospital provides, he said.

Basically, the more people who pay out of their pockets for medical care, or the more whose private insurance pays for treatments, the more money the hospital receives, Philips indicated.

Receiving lesser cost reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid does not hurt the hospital’s ability to provide quality medical care, Philips said. But, he added, it could put services beyond basic medical care “at risk.”

He added that Memorial willingly treats anyone, regardless of their ability — or lack thereof — to pay for services.

More revenue would help the hospital add more health services and recruit more doctors, he said.

Dr. Edna Ekuban-Gordon, an emergency department physician at Memorial, told Griffith she thinks the hospital’s biggest challenge is “trying to recruit primary (care) doctors here to stay.”

Philips and Griffith said having more clinics, such as Bassett Family Practice, that receive federal funds to help financially strapped people also would help area residents receive a doctor’s care away from the hospital.

Griffith noted that Memorial does not qualify as a “rural hospital” due to Martinsville’s population density. Therefore, he said, it does not qualify for federal assistance to rural hospitals.

A member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Griffith said he visited Memorial because “I’m trying to learn, listen and find things out” to help medical professionals provide better care.

As they walked through the hospital, Philips introduced Griffin to numerous people, from doctors to licensed practical nurses. Griffin handed his business card to almost everyone he met and encouraged them to contact him if they have any ideas or suggestions for improving health care.

He admitted, however, that even with ideas, “it doesn’t mean we (federal lawmakers) can fix everything” wrong with health care.


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