A Note from Dennis Knox

As we celebrate Mid-Columbia Medical Center’s 120th anniversary, I have been reflecting on our history and deep ties to the community. The original hospital was started by local pioneer doctors--Dr. Belle Cooper Rinehart and Dr. Mary Powell Johnson--in the Rinehart family home in The Dalles. We have come a long way from those early beginnings to the comprehensive health system we have today. For over a century, MCMC has continued to thrive and expand to meet our growing community’s health care needs. And while 136 rural hospitals across the U.S. have closed in recent years, we continue to look optimistically toward a bright and fulfilling future.

MCMC was founded by local residents for local residents, and community support is just as important now as it was back then. That is why I am launching this monthly message. There are many exciting things taking place (or being planned) at MCMC, and I want to make sure that our friends, neighbors, staff, volunteers, and the entire community are kept up to date. Whether it’s great news or a discussion on the challenging healthcare issues of the day, I hope you’ll take a moment each month to read this column.

Bold Vision for the Future

MCMC has taken an important step toward a bright future for the community – one that will reflect the best of what 21st century healthcare has to offer.

Earlier this month, we made a presentation to the Wasco County Commission to share our vision for a new hospital campus at Kramer Field that would replace our existing facility, allowing us to increase access to the care and services we provide. The County Commission supported our vision and recognized the significant benefits to our community. If you missed that big announcement, click here for all the details.

There many questions still to be answered and there is a lot we do not know today. We are just beginning to explore the idea of this vision. We are committed to being open and transparent and will keep you informed throughout this journey.

Working to Increase Health Equity

Non-medical factors can greatly influence health outcomes. These include food security, access to transportation, health literacy and ability to pay for needed medication. MCMC has made it a strategic priority to help address these health inequities in our community.

This summer, we launched a comprehensive case management program designed to help our community’s most vulnerable residents achieve better health outcomes. Our new Patient Navigation Program promotes a one‐on‐one relationship between a patient and navigator and includes services such as locating free or low‐cost screenings, making transportation arrangements, assisting in finding physicians and scheduling appointments; providing health education, and helping to overcome other barriers associated with poor health outcomes.

Once patients are identified, a case manager stays in contact with the patient to assist them with their specific needs. Whether that is finding a rehabilitation facility for a patient suffering from a substance abuse disorder and chronic homelessness, or helping a young mother obtain health insurance for her sick child, the Patient Navigation Program is already making a difference in the lives of local residents.

MCMC will seek grants to continue to grow this much-needed program in our community.

Our Commitment to Planetree and Person-Centered Care

Twenty-nine years ago, MCMC was the first hospital in the nation to fully integrate the Planetree philosophy of care, a holistic approach to healthcare that emphasizes the need to address a person's intellectual, environmental, emotional, and spiritual concerns in addition to their physical needs. Planetree’s Person-Centered Care approach also promotes a healthy, encouraging environment for caregivers and addresses the health needs of the surrounding community.

We believe in these values and are taking steps to reaffirm our commitment to them. During a recent site visit to MCMC, Planetree representatives interviewed 108 staff members, patients and families. The Planetree team then identified key areas for MCMC to focus on, such as implementing a program for staff members to recognize and celebrate each other, ensuring patients have access to their health information and are encouraged to have discussions to help them fully comprehend the information, and gathering patient and staff feedback on a regular basis. A Planetree Steering Committee has been established to lead these efforts, and in 2022 all MCMC employees will participate in Planetree training sessions.

The Planetree approach not only improves health outcomes, it has been shown to positively effect the overall patient experience, as well as employee satisfaction and retention. I look forward to sharing more about our Planetree program very soon.

Pandemic Update

The questions I am most often asked are related to COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the community has great interest in what has been the most challenging healthcare experience of our lifetime. Thanks to our incredible staff, MCMC has been able to remain open to care for our community – even during the summer Delta surge. Every member of our team has played a role in keeping our operations going, especially our Emergency Department staff who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since day one.

While case counts are going down, the virus is still spreading throughout our community. As we approach the winter months and the holiday season, please be mindful of your health and the health of others as you celebrate with your family, friends and loved ones.

We have a lot to be thankful for; I wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.