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WV Chamber Summit: Healthcare leaders address challenges, goals of personal and public health

MORGANTOWN – The changing landscape of healthcare and its many challenges occupied a good portion of Thursday’s West Virginia Chamber of Commerce 2022 Summit.

Dave Ramsey, president and CEO of CAMC Health System and the newly created Vandalia Health (see separate story on Page A-5) talked about turbulence in the industry.

During the pandemic people delayed healthcare, he said, and now demand is rising. But the workforce shortages remain, and many nurses completing school want to be traveling nurses – which offers the adventure of travel and higher pay.

Nationwide, he said, there is a shortage of 250,000 nurses, and 18% of the nursing workforce retired during the pandemic.

“This bus crash has gone on for years and it’s been so wearing for everybody in the industry,” he said.

Other factors in today’s turbulence are inflation, supply chain challenges and social determinants of health – meaning things like lifestyle, smoking and mental health. Only 35% of a person’s health is related to actual healthcare, he said.

“It’s not all about the hospitals, frankly,” he said.

Ramsey talked about the West Virginia Health Network that evolved out of the Partners in Health Network. The West Virginia Health Network describes itself as “a clinically-integrated network (CIN) that gives physicians many opportunities. A CIN places the patient at the center of care and strives to deliver the right care at the right time and by the right provider. It brings together physicians, hospitals and health systems through technology, shared data and performance benchmarks to improve quality of care, enhance patient experience and reduce health care costs.”

Ramsey said, “It’s about working with the patient with their own healthcare as a system. … We’re on a great path. People want to stay close to home.”

Brian Castrucci, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, also talked about the social determinants and building healthier communities. “We cannot treat our way out of our health issues. We cannot treat our way into better health.”

The foundation says its mission “is to advance policy, build partnerships, and strengthen public health to create communities where people can achieve their best possible health.”

Castrucci said he suffered a heart attack on Valentine’s day but has lost weight and is recovering well because he lives in a community that supports his health. Not everyone does.

“Healthcare is a luxury item,” he said, and it shouldn’t be that way. “Businesses and public health must work together. … Good community health is good business.”

Businesses and government must work together on policies that promote community health, he said. Those include such things as tax credits to offset business healthcare costs and proactive rental inspections for health issues such as mold. Businesses must mobilize their political power to get government to do what it’s supposed to do.

The foundation puts it this way: “Healthcare that focuses on individuals after they’ve become sick falls short because it doesn’t address the many social and economic factors that influence health. In comparison to healthcare, public health is underfunded and undervalued, and our goal is to help close that gap by investing in lasting solutions to improve health. … While public health responds to disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental threats, its focus is on prevention — creating conditions where people can achieve their best possible health.”

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