PINEHURST, North Carolina: FirstHealth of the Carolinas, headquartered in Pinehurst, has received a $350,000 grant from The Duke Endowment to develop a robust plan for the health care continuum in Montgomery County.
“Rural hospitals across the state face significant challenges stemming from aging facilities and changing health care markets,” said Mickey Foster, MHA, chief executive officer of FirstHealth of the Carolinas. “FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital in Troy is among these hospitals and, as such, finds itself at a critical juncture: the hospital must adapt in order to continue serving the people of Montgomery County.”
Montgomery Memorial Hospital is a 79,801-square-foot, 25-bed facility constructed in 1950, with additions completed in 1969 and 1992. The facility is a “Critical Access Hospital,” a federal designation granted to eligible rural hospitals to help keep essential health care services available in rural areas. “The presence of rural hospitals is essential to our communities’ wellbeing as a whole,” said Beth Walker, R.N., president of Montgomery Memorial Hospital. “Rural hospitals like ours keep patients close to home and reduce lengthy drive times to Pinehurst or beyond for care, which can be costly and require time off work.” Additionally, local hospitals have a demonstrated, positive impact on local economies.
Frequent and expensive capital improvements have been necessary to ensure patient safety and regulatory compliance at Montgomery Memorial Hospital. “While we are incredibly proud that our facility has met the health care needs of area residents since opening, its age and design place unsustainable burdens on its finances and solvency, said Walker. “Our hospital must be reimagined and revitalized for us to provide the continuum of health care necessary for our community.”
Funds from The Duke Endowment will enable FirstHealth to undertake the Montgomery County Healthcare Reimagining Project, a collaborative process allowing the community to envision what the Montgomery Memorial Hospital of the future will look like and how it can turn that vision into reality. “Our facility is a community resource, so community input is essential to this reimagining process,” said Walker, president of Montgomery Memorial Hospital since October 201l and a lifelong Montgomery County resident who began her career at the hospital in 1981.
The one-year Reimagining Project encompasses several stages. Walker and her colleagues from FirstHealth will work with the NC Healthcare Foundation and other experts to gather community input, local data and detailed inventories of Montgomery County’s specific health care needs existing resources. Leaders will then identify at least three potential operational models with challenges, opportunities and complexities detailed for each, and present to the community and experts for input. Once stakeholders approve the best approach, leaders will determine timing and resources needed for implementation. The Reimagining Project is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2020.
As limited access to health care in rural areas is not unique to Montgomery Memorial Hospital, FirstHealth will share the results of the Montgomery County Healthcare Reimagining Project with rural hospitals around the nation. Best practices, challenges, successes and outcomes of FirstHealth’s effort will help other rural hospitals as they reimagine their options for health care delivery.
“Our hospital has significant needs, and we are grateful to The Duke Endowment for helping us overcome its challenges creatively, proactively and with an overall commitment to population health,” said Foster. “FirstHealth’s core purpose is ‘to care for people’ and we are steadfastly determined to do that in Montgomery County with a continued hospital presence.”
Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a private, not-for-profit health care network, is headquartered in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Its nearly 5,000 employees serve 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas. Licensed for four hospitals with 610 beds, FirstHealth demonstrates a commitment to treating the whole patient and to providing quality health care for the entire community – especially those in need. The system’s core purpose is “to care for people.” Information is available at www.firsthealth.org.