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RRH focusing on acute needs during financial crisis

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RRH focusing on acute needs during financial crisis

CEO offers clarity on impacts to women's health, mental health, physical therapy

As the March 1 suspension of labor and delivery services draws near, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital leadership offered clarity on how strategic suspensions and cuts will impact its service lines.

“There are two issues that continue to drive operations — inadequate reimbursements, and a shortage of providers,” said RRH CEO Jim Suver.“As we navigate those two factors, our team has continued to prioritize the most acute needs in our community.”

OB navigation for pregnant women

The OB navigator program — led by Siena Martin, Nickie Rothwell, and Alfie Johnson, and supported by the entire team of the women's health clinic — has facilitated the delivery or transfer of care for all but a few dozen of its 200 patients.

The clinic staff has helped patients find providers in surrounding communities, including Bakersfield, Bishop, Lancaster, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Loma Linda.

A question that has continued to arise in the wake of the notice for suspension of service is what pregnant women should do in the case of an emergency.

Hospital leadership noted that, as with any medical emergency, a pregnant patient should call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room. Operators and emergency-care personnel are trained to assess and make a determination on the best medical care for the emergency.

“We still have several dozen patients who have not completed their transition to a new provider. Right now we have prioritized those who will be delivering in March as well as those with high-risk pregnancies,” Daphne Unhassobiscay said.

“I want to thank our patients who have worked with us. We all really love our patients and this community, and after people have safely delivered their babies, we want them to know we will be here for them.”

Women's services still offered

Four providers — including nurse practitioners Alessa Siler and Mariah Pietrangelo — will remain at the clinic to provide well-woman visits, annual exams, PAP smears, birth-control counseling and surveillance, family planning, post-partum depression treatment, lactation counseling, breast exams, STI screening, hormone therapy and other female-related health issues.

To make an appointment call 760-499-3640.

Tele-psych services continue

The loss of grant funding and ongoing provider shortages has resulted in some eliminated positions in the mental health clinic. However, Suver affirmed that patients will still have access to psychiatry and counseling appointments through telemedicine.

“Our tele-psych program has provided critical access to our patients over the last two decades, and we are looking for ways to expand that,” said Suver.

Because there are other counselors who provide support in our community, RRH will continue to focus on access to physicians for mental health support, he said.

Pediatric PT, adult OT continue

RRH recently announced that, effective Feb. 1, it will be suspending outpatient physical therapy services for adults.

Program Director Ashley Allen said that the decision was driven to prioritize therapy services for pediatric patients, as well as adults in need of occupational therapy and speech-language pathology.

“We are re-directing our staffing pool to support home-based therapy, inpatient therapy, and support at Bella Sera,” she said. “In the coming months, we will continue to evaluate this decision to ensure that we are responding to the most critical needs in our community.”

“Even though we recognize the difficulty our patients and community are facing, every action we take has been in the interest of providing the highest access to healthcare possible in our community,” said Suver.

“Our staff continues to work tirelessly to find creative solutions to the massive challenges for healthcare providers.”

Suver said he also wanted to thank the members of the public who have reached out with support. “Rural healthcare is facing challenges that were not created locally, and they cannot be fixed at the local level. We will continue to work with our elected officials and policy makers at the higher levels of government to find solutions that restore access to healthcare in our remote regions of the country.”