Idea challenge will
help local health care By David Lias
Plain Talk The level of care offered at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center is about to receive a big shot in the arm. However, the expertise for the new ideas and technology that will soon be put into use by Vermillion's health care provider doesn't come from some high-priced consulting firm. It came from members of the hospital staff, who best know what is needed for Sanford Vermillion Medical Center to provide top notch care. Dakota Hospital Foundation, which has fulfilled a mission of improving the health of communities and individuals in the Vermillion since 1930, decided to the best place to search for new and innovative ways to serve local citizens was by requesting proposals from those most initimate with patients, residents, visitors and staff — the Sanford Vermillion Medical Center employees. Two ideas were judged to be winners of the first Dakota Hospital Foundation Employee Idea Challenge: A Thyroid Clinic suggested by Paige Fornia, staff pharmacist at the medical center; and a powered ambulance cot for the Vermillion Emergency Medical Service (EMS) suggested by Katie Walter, a physical therapist with the rehabilitation department of the medical center. Thyroid Clinic Fornia's proposal notes the need for a thyroid clinic in Vermillion. Hypothyroidism is a common condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid horomone. Hypothyroidism affects about three percent of the general population and is most common in women older than 50. In the Vermillion community alone, the number of patients with hypothyroidism numbers approximately 300. Fornia notes that Sanford Vermillion Medical Center draws patients from several outlying communities, meaning the number of patients with hypothyroidism treated at the center could easily rise to 600. Patients with hypothyroidism are put on levothyroxine to keep their thyroid levels at a normal range. Fornia notes that patients can become discouraged with their healthcare provider when their levels do not normalize. For that and other reasons, she has proposed introducing a thyroid clinic at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. No other rural hospital of Vermillion's size is offering this service. Fornia believes it will help the hospital build relationships community members. According to her proposal, the Thyroid Clinic would be very similar to a Coumadin Clinic that is already in operation at the Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. Patients would get blood drawn to test their thyroid levelsk, and also have an opportunity to discuss dosing times, eating habits and other pertinent information. When the results come back from the lab, the levothyroxine dose can be adjusted, if necessary. Powered Ambulance Cot Katie Walker's idea for a powered ambulance cot for the Vermillion EMS came after she researched the amount of weight the staff can safely lift. According to a 2007 study, 10 percent of EMTs and paramedics are missing work due to job-related injury or illness. Currently, the Vermillion EMS have manual Stryker cots in their three ambulances. It takes manpower to lift these cots, loaded with a patient, into an ambulance. The average weight for an American woman is 163 pounds; it's 191 pounds for an American man. Adding the weight of the cot, that means EMS personnel may lift over 300 pounds on an average call. The result, over time, the the EMS crew are strains, pains and injuries from cumulutative wear and tear. The Vermillion EMS also must call on a number of bariatric patients who may weigh from 300 t0 600 pounds. In these cases, Walker wrote, the EMS crew must call for help from firemen to assist with the lift. Not only is this embarrassing for the patient, it also wastes precious time that could be spent on advanced care the patient receives at the hospital. Walker has proposed that the EMS acquire a powered cot to help reduce the amount of manual lifting caregivers experience. Such a cot, with a battery-powered hydraulic system, raises and lowers a patient with the touch of a button. The powered cots have a lifting capacity of 700 pounds. The Vermillion EMS association has funds available to help with the purchase of a powered cot, but doesn't have enough funding to cover the entire $11,400 price. Aaron Leesch, the EMS director in Vermillion, said the main goal of a powered cot is to allow EMS workers to lift the cot from ground level up to the loading height. "It allows for ease of movement for larger people," he said. "This will not help us in the house, per se, but it really is going to help once we get outside because then we have to lift the individual to a lot higher level, so that will help a lot in saving the strain on our backs, and also helping to make everything safer for the patient." The powered cot is designed to fit in the back of an ambulance. Dakota Hospital Foundation has never hosted an idea challenge before. It appears this may become an annual event. Hospital officials had to choose from 13 proposals this year alone. "One of the things I was impressed with was I really thought I would see things all over the map," said Tim Tracy, CEO of Sanford Vermillion Medical Center, "and we didn't. People followed the proposals, they followed the instructions, and their writing was well done." "The proposals came from all arenas," said Mary Merrigan, public relations director at Sanford Vermillion Medical Center. "They came from just about every area you could think of, so that was great, too." For submitting the winning proposals, both Fornia and Walter each received a $1,000 cash award from the Dakota Hospital Foundation.