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DHHS Secretary finds innovation at CMC-Union

Monroe, N.C.

DHHS Secretary finds innovation at CMC-Union
Heather Smith
The Enquirer-Journal
September 8, 2014

Thursday, N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos toured Carolinas Medical Center - Union, cheerfully introducing herself to hospital staff.

In preparation for a major overhaul of the state's Medicaid system, Wos (pronounced 'Vosh') and several NCDHHS officials are touring community hospitals in North Carolina. Her goal is to learn the challenges and accomplishments of health care providers for providing Medicaid services. She met with CMC-Union President Michael Lutes and his staff to hear their suggestions to improve Medicaid while improving patient care.

CMC-Union boasts some creative solutions to improve the patient experience, CMC-Union Chief Nursing Officer Denise White said while leading state officials on a tour of the emergency department. When it was renovated a few years ago, the new layout was designed by staff, which chose to incorporate little touches to make patients and their families more comfortable. Curtains and sliding doors to ER exam rooms keep the interior a little more quiet and private for the patient trying to rest.

"These are just ideas from our staff that we incorporated into the design," White said.

Wos was impressed.

"These are common sense solutions," Wos said.

Wos was most impressed by a special room, a little more private and quiet than the rest of the department.

"This is for victims of sexual assault," White said, showing Wos an exam room connected to another room cozily decorated. "They have a separate entrance for their own privacy. Here they can go from the exam room to this room, take a shower and relax. It's also a room where the police can come and conduct interviews."

"This is brilliant," Wos said. "I've never seen anything like this before."

She asked her assistant to note the idea to share with other health care providers.

The secretary and her staff met with CMC-Union officials to discuss a provider-led model of Medicaid reform, which Wos favors. Legislators have grappled with the best reform methods over the last two years. Lutes said he was impressed that Wos was open to hearing practical suggestions for change from hospital workers.

"She was very interested in what we had to say," Lutes said.

Besides serving as NCDHHS secretary, Wos is herself a physician. She served as U.S. ambassador to Estonia until 2006 under the Bush Administration. Her work in North Carolina and New York with numerous medical associations included prevention of HIV and AIDS.

Wos described CMC-Union as "stunning," being both aesthetically pleasing and able to provide the highest patient care. The range of medical treatment is rare in rural communities, she said, but Union County has a resource that allows patients to receive care closer to home.

North Carolina has different levels of care in rural and urban areas, Wos said. To get a better idea of what providers are able to do, Wos said she has visited many hospitals over the last 19 months. Her meeting with CMC-Union officials gave her more ideas for how to tailor Medicaid reform models and improve provider care overall.

"It was very good to hear their challenges and suggestions," Wos said. "Challenges often present themselves as opportunities to learn and improve. Take the special room in the emergency department here, for example. That is something I will definitely share with others as I continue."

Reforming Medicaid in North Carolina is more than conrolling costs or meeting quotas, she said.

"Going around to see the hospitals, you're able to hear and see - and I think it's the seeing part that you can't replace - what we can do as the Department of Health and Human Services to take obstacles away to allow physicians and health care givers to be able to give the best possible care to their patients, despite the challenges." Wos said

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Contact: news@dhhs.nc.gov
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