TROY — While Upper Valley Medical Center is ramping up all of the facilities, medical equipment, and physicians’ expertise that they have to offer, the heroin epidemic continues to take the spotlight in discussions surrounding healthcare in Miami County.
UVMC held their 2016 “State of our Healthcare” Thursday over lunch, highlighting the improvements to UVMC, their challenges, their expanding emergency room, and an overview of how the heroin epidemic is impacting healthcare in the county.
“Prior to 2007, if you look at the causes of accidental deaths, it was things that we would commonly think of — falls, motor vehicle accidents, suicides. That’s no longer the case,” said Dr. Jennifer Hauler, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at UVMC. “After 2007 … the number one cause of accidental deaths is overdose and the majority of that is secondary to heroin and painkillers.”
Hauler explained that there was a 413 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 1999-2013. In 2013, there were approximately 47,000 overdoses, with almost two-thirds of those related to prescription painkillers and the remainder related to heroin. According to the Ohio Department of Health, of those overdoses, approximately 2,110 resulted in death, which is the highest number of deaths on record for drug overdose. That means that year, nearly six Ohioans died every day from unintentional drug overdose or one every four hours.
Hauler also pointed out that Dayton is number one in the nation for overdoses.
In explaining how this has impacted UVMC, Hauler said that drug-related visits to the emergency room increased from 200 in 2010 to 800 visits in 2015, saying that they treat approximately 50 overdoses a month.
Hauler said the rise of prescription painkillers and heroin addiction was impacted by the availability of Oxycontin in the mid-1990s, when it was falsely advertised as being less prone to abuse. In 2007, the makers of Oxycontin pleaded guilty in a lawsuit, reportedly admitting to misleading regulators.
While prescription painkillers can be expensive and difficult to come by, Hauler said that drug cartels have made heroin cheap and readily available. Hauler also said that four in five people abusing prescription drugs have become addicted to heroin and that one out of four people who try heroin become hooked.
“It takes over,” Hauler said about the addiction.
As for the answer to solving this public health crisis, there is no single concrete solution.
“We know that traditional abstinence programs just don’t work,” Hauler said. Heroin and opioid addicts also relapse within a year, so it is a long process that needs to be managed.
“It’s a lifelong process,” Hauler said.
Hauler explained that there are some FDA-approved medications for treating heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms, such as Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone, which each has their own drawbacks. They also need to be able to provide mental health treatment for issues such as depression or anxiety.
“It’s, by far, not a perfect situation,” Hauler said.
The point of providing attendees information on the heroin epidemic was to both educate as well as show why the community should continue to provide support for medical professionals as they battle this crisis.
On the UVMC side, President and CEO Becky Rice highlighted the improvements at the hospital as well as some of their challenges.
“Being in an election year, there’s a lot of unknowns,” Rice said. “It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare.”
Rice discussed the one-year anniversary of the hospital’s wound care center, the hospital’s second MRI machine, quality metrics, new physicians, and more.
The hospital is also a test site for an electronic intensive care unit (EICU), which is a form of telemedicine. Rice explained that there are cameras watching the patients, with doctors watching those cameras to provide a second layer of safety for ICU patients.
Challenges for UVMC include recruiting and retaining new talent, diversity in the labor pool, cost pressures, regulatory and accreditation requirements, access to providers, and more.
“People are accessing healthcare differently … so we have to change with the times,” Rice said.
Finding new physicians is also a difficulty that they face. “It’s a challenge to recruit physicians to Ohio and the Midwest,” Rice said.
Rice said that they are also shifting to view themselves as a consumer-driven industry. “We are guests in the patients’ lives,” she said.
Rice also gave an overview of UVMC statistics. For 2016, they are expecting to see an approximate 12,000 inpatient and observation patients; 45,000 emergency room visits; and 3,500 surgeries. Their estimated capital budget for 2016 is $22.5 million.
Following Rice, Vice President of Operation Diane Pleiman went over UVMC’s new MD Anderson affiliation as well as the addition to the emergency room that is under construction.
Pleiman explained how UVMC worked to become a part of the MD Anderson physician network, which is affiliated with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and is a comprehensive cancer care center. The certified physicians at UVMC have immediate access to the physicians at Anderson so UVMC patients do not have to travel to Texas to receive treatment.
UVMC’s new addition will be 26,300 square feet with 36 rooms and 38 patient beds, two trauma bays, three nursing stations, a behavioral health suite, and isolation rooms. UVMC is expecting to move into that space in December and then begin renovations on their current emergency room, which is approximately 13,900 square feet.
“It’s for the community,” Pleiman said.
Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected] or (937) 451-3336