Mason General Hospital
Mason General Hospital
Thank you, Eric. Congratulations to everyone here, and to everyone in the greater community who made this new surgical wing possible at Mason General. This is a big step, the fulfillment of a dream on one hand, but on the other a major milestone of what the hospital will become with the second phase of this expansion.
This is about progress. This is about economic development. This is about sustainable jobs. This is about bringing a state-of-the-art facility to our community and, by doing so, attracting some of the best and brightest in the medical field to live and work among us. This is about improving the overall quality of life in Mason County. But, most importantly, what this new facility is about, is people.
Mason General opened in 1968 as a 55,488 square foot facility and is the only acute care facility operated in Mason County. It replaced the old Shelton General, a 50-bed, 12-basinette hospital that opened in 1920 over at Fourth and Birch. An additional 31,893 square feet was added in 1992, and that’s about where it has stood until recent times.
The number of admissions and visits at the hospital and clinics was listed at around 74,000 a year alone in 2011 when counting all of the inpatient and outpatient services provided. They are treated by more than 100 doctors in eighteen specialty areas. That represents a lot of gauze, gowns, disinfectant and needle sticks.
Even when we go here for a joyous occasion, like the birth of a child or to visit a loved one who is well on their way to recovery after a serious accident or illness, being at a hospital does not usually rank up there with, say, going to an Ms game during a winning season or spending time with the family during the holidays. Oh, wait, that can be pretty stressful too …
What is so great about Mason General is that it is a community center of care. Like other community hospitals, Mason General is a facility that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week year-round to care for anyone who is in need of their services. There aren’t too many other institutions that can boast that, other than perhaps our local state correctional center which cares for its guests in a slightly different way and I will best leave it at that.
Beyond the care that Mason General provides for its patients is the care and support it shows for the community at large. What I am talking about is the presence of staff and volunteers at events like Allyn Days, where festival participants can get free blood pressure checks and health education referrals. Or at the semi-annual Women’s Health Fair, which offers free screening mammograms, blood pressure checks, blood glucose screenings, nutritional counseling, free massages and healthy snacks.
By the way, more than 200 women have been screened at these fairs, two of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer and had said they would otherwise had not been screened, proving that community care through various public outreach and education efforts is saving lives in Mason County.
Mason General is a strong presence in the community. Students show off their art work here. Each June, the hospital foundation benefits from an annual fun run that also promotes healthy and positive lifestyle choices.
Mason General is our county’s fourth largest employer – there are about 550 people who work at the hospital, mostly at an above-average pay scale. As such, the hospital is a critical, contributing factor to our local economy. (In case you are curious, third largest employer is the school district, second is the correctional facility and the highest is Little Creek). It takes a strong community to keep the hospital going and as we can see today we have one. It is both the hub of the community and a place of community.
There are about 98 hospitals in Washington, about half of which are managed by not-for-profit organizations and the other half by public hospital districts. Since Mason is a public hospital, oversight is provided by a public hospital district commission.
By the way, I would like to commend your Public Hospital District One Commissioners Don Wilson, Nancy Trucksess and Scott Hilburn, as well as members of the hospital leadership and executive team, on finding a way to secure the $33 million in funds for this project without having to ask taxpayers for more money.
For those who don’t know, they did it through the successful mix of low-interest Build America Bonds, which was part of the federal stimulus package, plus an allocation of $4 million in cash by the board to get this thing moving. Say what you will about the stimulus package, but it did seem to come at just the right time to make the current round of hospital improvements relatively pain free in the pocketbook. As both a politician AND a taxpayer, I thank you!
So the public district is one piece, but there is also the extensive network of volunteers who help staff the hospital, and the 45 or so active members of the hospital auxiliary who run the gift shop. These wonderful ladies provide another great service by doing so – every year since the 1970s funds raised from the gift shop have gone to scholarships to help our young people earn degrees in medical fields. This has helped three or four kids a year, either high school seniors or hospital employees seeking to improve themselves by going back to school.
I was impressed to learn that the team of more than 80 hospital volunteers – not counting those who are with the auxiliary or foundation - saved the hospital about $200,000 a year. Last quarter alone these volunteers put in 2,300 hours of time, helping out in each of the dozen departments.
Working at the hospital for many of these volunteers is like being a part of a larger family. One such star whom many of you probably know is volunteer Mary Anne Munson. Mary Anne is originally from Minneapolis, where her first job was in a hospital kitchen. She eventually married and moved to California where she lived until 1992.
Mary Anne tells us she moved to Shelton out of the blue after becoming a widow, having visited this area earlier and falling in love with it. Ever a volunteer, she decided to put her energy and passion into the hospital, working in the gift shop and the book store and becoming a member of the (hospital) foundation.
In fact Mary Anne received the Foundation’s “Flame Award” last year for the many hours she puts in here. But for Mary Anne and all of those who volunteer with her, the hospital provides a purpose, a sense of community and belonging. What would we do without our hard-core volunteers? We thank you, one and all. (Ask Mary Ann Munson to stand, then all the hospital volunteers in the audience to stand)
Everyone who has been treated here, who has volunteered or been an employee here, or has been a part of Mason General has their own story of how this place has made a difference in their lives.
As most of you know, I was born and raised in Tacoma but am a Shelton resident by choice, have been for more than 40 years. I came here as a young man out of high school for a job opportunity, later opened a couple of convenience stores and never left. One of the reasons I stayed, as so many of you have, is because of the high quality of life in Mason County. It’s a great place to raise a family; at least it was for me and I’m sure many of you too.
My three daughters, Shanie, Dana, Sherri, were born right here at Mason General back in the 1970s. My other three, Royce, Mark and Adam would have been born here too had they not come to me through my second marriage or adoption. For my daughters Mason General was the beginning of their own series of amazing life journeys. Now they are all adults, have lived in places around the world, and have children of their own, some of whom are also grown. But it all started here at Mason General.
The hospital has made significant advances since the days of my daughters’ birth. Back then fathers could only watch the birth of their children if they were married to the mother, participated in birthing classes and other stipulations. The mothers had to move between several rooms throughout the process – there was the labor room, the delivery room, the recovery room, etc.
Now it’s all in the same room, and I am told not only fathers but other loved ones are welcome to participate in most circumstances. Yes, a lot is different today. Back when my daughters were born everything was paper-based. Now our docs can summon patient medical records over their iPads.
Certainly one thing has remained unchanged – the personal care and compassion by caring doctors and nurses at Mason General is much the same, only the technology has evolved.
Mason General is so connected, in fact, that over the past decade it has won a series of major national awards for being one of the “most wired” hospitals – and I don’t think they were talking about coffee consumption there. For instance MGH has telestroke, a video conferencing system with a neurologist, allowing patient examination and interview remotely; CAT scan images can be sent for neurologist to review, orders received and carried out.
With the new surgical wing doctors and nurses will have more room to do their fine work. I understand they were kind of cramped in the three surgery suites they had before. And with the new space comes modern technology, which in addition to hastening the treatment process is a key recruiting tool for the hospital when competing for medical talent with hospitals around the greater Puget Sound area and elsewhere. Surgeons can now have the best of both worlds here: a great place to live and a great place to practice medicine!
The second phase of this project, to begin almost right away, will double the size of the emergency department and provide separate waiting rooms for those who require urgent care and those who are there for a blood draw or lab work, X-rays or just have a bad case of the flu.
I hear the size of the hospital dining room is also doubling and, with executive chef John Cruse providing a fancy a la carte menu, forget coming to the hospital just to seek medical attention. People are coming over here just for a great meal! Now that is a first for any hospital.
Mason General now includes a family of clinics – eight in all – where people can see both specialists and general practitioners. These clinics were once independent but it made business sense for both the hospital and the clinic physicians to become one administration operation. That way the docs can focus on medicine and patient care while the hospital can cover all of the administrative functions, which have become somewhat of a nightmare in recent years with reimbursement formulas that are complex enough to scare anyone away from the field.
Hospitals, and, in fact the whole health care industry is one that of course is changing more rapidly than any one person can entirely keep up with, let alone a heap of experts.
With the Affordable Care Act now the law of the land – unless the Republicans are somehow successful in their efforts to repeal it -- we are seeing some very sweeping reforms, none of which I have any expertise in whatsoever.
All I know is that here in Washington we have upwards of one sixth of our population – a million plus – citizens who are either not covered by an insurance plan of any kind or underinsured. Our insurance commissioner breaks that down to about 11,300 uninsured who are under age 65 in Mason County alone, about 74 percent of whom would benefit from the Affordable Care Act.
What this has meant is that hospital emergency rooms like the one at Mason General have had to double as the primary care centers for the uninsured. And the chances of a hospital getting repaid for emergency treatment has been pretty slim, which of course strains the entire medical system. The costs for caring for the uninsured and underinsured are passed right back to the insured in the form of higher insurance premiums and increased medical costs over all.
The Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it, is expected to provide relief by spreading insurance coverage to everyone – including low-income and lower-middle class income – through the expansion of Medicaid and by providing access to a wider insurance pool through the Health Benefits Exchange, which will allow families and individuals one-stop, online shopping to select from a number of available plans.
If all goes as planned those the majority of the underinsured living in Mason County should be covered by 2014. All this will have the double benefit of reducing the load of non-urgent care on the emergency room and improving the quality of health care for those who need it the most. I don’t wish to get too much into the weeds of this stuff but it is all very consistent with the five strategies Governor Chris Gregoire laid out several years ago as her priorities for improving our state’s health care system.
Mason General treats those who have been sick and injured and, as I mentioned, has also been there for preventative care. As we all know prevention is the best method of keeping our costs down. Prevention is key to building healthy communities, especially when it comes to substance abuse and addictions, childhood and adult obesity, accidents caused by impaired driving and other things we can all do to keep ourselves healthy and strong.
I am happy that my hospital – Mason General – is here today to provide my family and me with the most modern care available anywhere and, if necessary, is well equipped to send us up to the next level of trauma care by aid car or helicopter, should the need arise. We hope that doesn’t happen, to someone in my family or yours, but if it does we know we are in good hands.
The addition of the new surgical wing and the improvements in phase two will make a great hospital an even greater one.
If we continue working together as we have here in Mason County there is no reason why we cannot achieve all of our dreams, whether they have to do with health care, the economy, a high quality of living and more. What we are celebrating today proves that it can be done!Today is a great day for Mason General, for Shelton, for Mason County and for our entire region. Again, my heartiest congratulations to everyone for making this day possible. Thank you.