Ten years ago, in December 2009, the “new” Ringgold County Hospital opened its doors. With state-of-the-art technology, patient and family-friendly rooms, and a design that maximized efficiency as well as comfort, it was a proud moment for everyone involved. Gordon Winkler, Ringgold County Hospital CEO, was intimately involved with the project. “Getting this building built is my proudest accomplishment,” he said.
“We did a really good job in functional space planning. We worked hard to determine which departments should go next to each other. When you go through the building you can see it. We still have people come and tour the building who latch on to those ideas.”
That said, not everything is in the same place that it was 10 years ago. “We never guessed how many things we’d end up moving around over the years,” added Winkler. “But if you want to continue to provide the level of services that our community expects, you have to adapt.” An example is the extensive dialysis unit that was built into the original facility. Even though the service was well utilized, when the federal government changed its reimbursement strategy, it proved to be unsustainable financially for RCH. Winkler explained that the Board of the hospital had to make the difficult decision to shut it down. That decision resulted in space that was repurposed to house Senior Life Solutions, a popular mental health program for senior citizens. It also allowed the Visiting Physicians Clinic to be relocated into a larger space. Not all the changes in the past decade were made because of the facility itself. Some personnel changes have resulted in better patient care. The Emergency Room used to be staffed by outsourced physicians. “Unfortunately, we didn’t always get the right people,” said Winkler. “We had problems trying to fill the schedule. We made the shift to hire and schedule our own dedicated physicians. They all have great personalities and fit into our community. Patient satisfaction scores have gone up tremendously.” Winkler continues to look for innovative ways to meet the healthcare needs of his community. “One of the biggest challenges to rural healthcare is the declining population. Economically, we simply can’t have every kind of specialist on staff.” That’s where a shared model comes in. For example, Dr. Tabitha Wilson, a pediatrician, is shared between RCH and CHI Health Corning in Corning, IA. “By sharing Dr. Wilson with another hospital and clinics, we can keep her appointment schedule full and provide our families with a pediatric specialist. It’s a win for everyone.”
Physicians aren’t the only professionals that are difficult to find. Winkler explained that lab techs, imaging techs, and paramedics are in short supply. “We have a good relationship with Southwestern Community College. That really helps with recruiting nursing students but recruiting for all positions is a real challenge for the future.” Hands-on healthcare professionals are the face of the hospital. However, the advancement of information technology and healthcare software applications has made a huge impact on behind-the-scenes hospital operations. “We have two informaticists to handle all the information. They help with the application side of the software and keep our physicians and nurses up to speed.” The technology used around the hospital has also changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The increase in electronic medical records requires dedicated VPN lines and more electrical service. Improvements in imaging technology resulted in a 3D mammography machine. “We never know what’s next on the horizon,” said Winkler. “Our challenge is balancing the need to provide our patients with the latest technology while we continue to maintain our facility. It’s 10 years old now, we’re doing things like replacing the carpet!” Although the hospital may be at the heart of the community, it’s not an island. Winkler participates in Ringgold County’s economic development activities. “We encourage all of our employees to be involved in community activities and events. Whenever our economic development group has an industry looking at our county, healthcare and education are the top two requirements.” In 32 years at the helm of Ringgold County Hospital, Gordon Winkler has guided the organization through all kinds of challenges and change. But through it all, there’s one thing that makes it all worthwhile. “I’m reminded every day how committed our employees are to their community. They really value the opportunity to take care of their families, their friends, and their neighbors. I am so proud to be part of this team.”
Choosing the right primary care provider is an important first step in managing your health, but for many Americans, finding a
health care provider to meet their needs can be a challenge.
Today, America’s nurse practitioners represent 270,000 solutions to improving patient health. In fact, nurse practitioners are the health care provider trusted by millions of Americans, and 80% of adults have been treated or know someone who has been treated by a nurse practitioner. In all 50 states, nurse practitioners assess patients, order and interpret tests, make diagnoses and provide treatment — including prescribing medications. Most importantly, as clinicians that blend clinical expertise with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management, nurse practitioners bring a comprehensive perspective to patient care. As we celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week, be sure to thank the nurse practitioners that provide care at Ringgold County Hospital and Mount Ayr Medical Clinic for their contributions to our communities’ health, and if you are considering an nurse practitioner for your health care, check out the providers at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic! To learn more about nurse practitioners and how they are impacting rural healthcare, visit www.AANP.org.
Students in grades 7-12 (entering the 2019/2020 school year) can stop in to the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic for a FREE sports physical on Wednesday, May 8th from 3-5pm. Sports physical forms may be picked up at your local school superintendent’s office and students must bring the form with parent signature to the physical. No appointment is necessary. Call the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic with additional questions 641-464-4470.
Food for Thought: Learn the value & benefits of hypnotherapy
You are invited to learn more about Ringgold County Hospital’s new Hypnotherapy Program and the benefits of tapping into your subconscious mind through hypnotherapy. Join Ruth Smith, DPT Thursday, March 14 at 5:00 p.m. in the RCH cafeteria. Please RSVP by calling 641-464-4401
Ladies In Red
Enjoy complimentary drinks and appetizers while hearing from featured speaker Melissa Murphy, a heart attack survivor, advocate, and speaker from the Des Moines area. All women are encouraged to wear red and enjoy conversation and education on Wednesday, March 60 – 5:30 p.m. at the Crazy Heifer (115 N. Taylor St., Mt. Ayr). For more information, contact Tracee Knapp at Ringgold County Hospital 641-464-4532.
2nd Annual Red Flannel Walk
Join Ringgold County Hospital to raise awareness for heart health! Our goal is to encourage everyone to walk for 30 minutes at the Mt. Ayr High School Track. This event is for all ages, registration begins at 4:30pm on Tuesday, February 26. Note: Strollers or other wheeled devices may not be permitted on the walking track.