L'ANSE - Now that the new Baraga County Memorial Hospital has been open for almost a year, administrators are conducting strategic planning sessions and seeking feedback from the community about how the hospital can improve services in its second year and beyond.
BCMH, which fully opened its doors on May 30, 2011, has posted a community input survey link on its website, bcmh.org. The deadline for submitting the survey, which is run through an online survey site called SurveyMonkey, is May 9.
"One of the pieces of strategic planning is trying to get some kind of feel on what kinds of services the community could use that we're not providing," BCMH CEO Tim Zwickey said. "There will be two different ones - one for employees and one for the community. ... I want to hear details about stuff."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Baraga County Memorial Hospital, seen here in a file photo, is seeking public input on how the hospital can improve services. It has posted a community input survey link on its website, bcmh.org.
Zwickey, for example, heard from someone in April about heavy wear and tear on exercise equipment at the BCMH Rehab & Fitness Center in downtown L'Anse.
"Those are the kind of things for strategic planning that we need to know so we can plan for them," Zwickey said.
Zwickey and other hospital administrators recognize public perception is unfavorable regarding the circumstances surrounding the hospital - building a new facility in the first place (funded entirely through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), leaving a usable facility vacant in the downtown, laying off workers due to financial difficulties and changing needs. But, Zwickey said a culture change is taking place at BCMH.
"Things are turning around as we thought that they would. It'll all be fine," Zwickey said.
The hospital lost $3.4 million last year, but much of that was due to one-time expenses related to a new building. The hospital was profitable in March, and Zwickey anticipates BCMH will soon obtain Rural Health Clinic status, which will allow the hospital to receive special Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
"We've done all the legwork for (RHC status). We're just waiting for the state to come and do their survey," Zwickey said.
The hospital is also celebrating the addition of its first female family practice physician, Promila Timothy, who started on Wednesday.
"This female family practice doctor and (Sharon Gilliland, pediatrician, hired in 2011), I fully believe if this new facility wouldn't have been here, they never would have come up here," Zwickey said. "I took this job because I knew there was going to be a new hospital here."
As for the former facility, BCMH is still looking into options, and Zwickey said numerous times previously it would not spend $10,000 a month next winter to heat the facility. If nobody buys the building, the hospital would incur a $400,000 demolition expense, plus asbestos abatement costs (asbestos would only be a problem if the facility was demolished).
BCMH wants to divest itself from the facility, and the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College is still a potential suitor.
"Anybody that wants to have the old hospital, we also have a responsibility to make sure the building is maintained," Zwickey said. "I just need to make sure that whoever ends up with it has some kind of a business plan where they can continue to operate it."
In any case, BCMH administrators want to make sure strategic planning with the old and new facility involves community input through the survey on its website, bcmh.org.