BPC President's Column: Healthcare Survey Reveals Delivery Deficiencies
In September, the Big Park Council’s community plan committee collaborated with County Supervisor Donna Michaels to survey our community to learn more about residents’ experience with Northern Arizona Healthcare. The results revealed that many residents are struggling to get timely access to the care they need – notably primary care.
The survey was emailed to the community plan committee’s list of 778 subscribers on Sept. 1 and was open to participation through Sept. 14. It was also “shared” by some of the council members, and posted on the website, Facebook page and NextDoor.
The survey generated 387 unique responses – 87.8% full-time residents, 7.8% part-time residents, and 4.4% who reported they did not live in the Big Park/VOC area.
Most respondents had a great deal of exposure to NAH: 63.8% indicated they were “very familiar/frequently use NAH services” and 23.3% said they have “some experience with NAH.” Only 8.8% said they had “previously used services or providers associated with NAH,” and 4.1% said they had no experience with NAH.
When asked “How would you describe your experience with NAH providers?”
• Excellent – access, responsiveness and quality of care meet my needs, 9.2%;
• Adequate – my experience has been mostly positive, 38.7%;
• Not satisfactory – my healthcare needs are sometimes unmet or poor quality, 35.9%;
• Terrible – my health care has sufferance as a result of the lack of or poor quality of services, 11.8%;
• Not applicable – 4.5%.
Questions 4, 5, and 6 were opened-ended, and interestingly produced highly consistent comments. To the question “What is the most urgent unmet need(s) for healthcare services experience by you and your household?” 46% specifically identified Primary Care. Other frequent mentions included access to specialists, lack of responsiveness, relegating to nurse practitioners, need for urgent care in VOC, cancer treatment closer to VOC and lab services in VOC.
When asked, “In your own words, what is the primary problem that you have experienced with NAH services and/or providers?,” 62% specifically identified “availability to services” as a key problem. Other frequent mentions were access to physicians, turnover, difficulty scheduling, long wait time for appointments, lack of specialists and physician overloaded.
The most poignant consensus in the survey was 87% expressing opposition to closing the emergency room/hospital in West Sedona.
You can download the survey report at tinyurl.com/VOChealthcare and also a separate report (36 pages) with the individual comments at tinyurl.com/VOCcomments.
Supervisor Michaels Takes Initiative on Healthcare Service Improvements
At the September 8th Council meeting, I reported on behalf of Supervisor Michaels that she is working with Northern AZ Healthcare to initiate improvements to access and “quality of service”, to ensure that quality healthcare services are secured for our community. On Sept. 1, she met with NAH Interim CEO Josh Tinkle, at which time he stated that “no closure will occur of the Sedona Emergency Services facility. That action is no longer under consideration now, or in the foreseeable future.”
Additionally, she and Mr. Tinkle will meet monthly for the next six months as they work together to ensure public trust in NAH is restored through evidence-based outcomes, to include:
• Recruitment of eight physicians within the next three months;
• Ensuring that Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood remains open and staffed as practical, with an eye to expansion when a capacity of 75% to 80% is reached on a recurring basis.
Citizens Healthcare Advisory Group
Still on the topic of healthcare, a newly-formed Citizens Healthcare Advisory Group (CHAG), which I was invited to join, will hold its first meeting in early October. The purpose of this group is to identify potential actions to take, or avenues to explore, to improve provision of healthcare services in Sedona. The intention is to create a report and feedback to the Sedona city manager and city council that includes prioritized recommendations for the city to take to improve healthcare. Although Big Park/VOC isn’t within city limits, healthcare delivery is a regional matter – thus the wisdom of including input from outside the incorporated boundaries. I will report as the work unfolds.