COVID-19 Pandemic Hits Home: Tri-county hospitals respond

Faith Allen checks appointments on her computer at the Samaritan Medical COVID-19 Testing Site located on Summit Drive in Watertown. Testing is available seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES FILE PHOTO

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Childhood Vaccinations: Fewer vaccines given by local health care providers during coronavirus pandemic

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20 Questions: River Hospital Strength

Emily Mastaler, CEO of River Hospital in Alexandria Bay, poses for a portrait in front of Boldt Castle, which the hospital faces along the St. Lawrence River. Sydney Schaefer/NNY Business

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A ZOOM Call Away: Telemedicine in NNY during the pandemic

Dr. Nathanial Miletta, who is in the dermatologic surgery department at Samaritan Medical Center, participates in a Zoom call with a patient in his office. Sydney Schaefer/NNY Business

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Regional Healthcare and Expansion: Investing in the north country

Christopher Lenney/ NNY Business
St. Lawrence Health System’s newest building Leroy Outpatient Center, in Potsdam, a 20,000 square feet, $10.5 million structure across the parking lot from the Canton-Potsdam Hospital, home to four physician practices, 16 clinical exam rooms, four infusion bays, three surgical suites and a cardiology testing area.

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Medicare vs. Medicaid: Defining coverage options in nny

Matthew Wiley of the Jefferson County Office of the Aging.

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Creating an Effective Team

Vega Nutting

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams

Though I never imagined I would one day be working in Health Information Technology, today I am doing just that at the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization. And when I look around at the team of women that support me at FDRHPO, I am always reminded how remarkable it is that we landed here together.

     At FDRHPO, we are right in the middle of a key transformation of our region’s healthcare system, working on a daily basis to improve the quality of care for our community, support our region’s healthcare providers and fill any gaps that may exist across the healthcare spectrum. Our agency is currently – and always has been – led by a woman, and it has several women in management roles.

     My direct team, which focuses on implementing the Patient-Centered Medical Home model in primary care offices throughout the north country, is made up of five women. We work closely together to support our agency’s mission, support the entire tri-county healthcare system, support our families and anyone else whose path we might cross throughout the day. As women, it’s just what we do.

     However, what we do in a day is just part of our story. The really interesting piece involves who we are, how we ended up in this field, and why we function as a great team in the male-dominated Information Technology sector.

     So, what makes an effective team? Forbes Magazine suggests that team chemistry might be more simple than we often think – “The most engaged and excited teams in the world can be found at your local park watching a Little League baseball game.”

     Working together towards a common goal, learning from past mistakes, encouraging one another, understanding individual roles, having a confident team leader, and even a little celebratory cheering when the team scores are all attributes of highly effective team. Forbes goes on to list five specific attributes of a highly successful team. They are:

  1. Having a Clear Vision – Being motivated not only by your company’s mission, but also by your own personal mission helps each individual team member realize how her personal contributions lend to the big picture.
  2. Having an Inspiring Leader – The best teams are led by people who communicate the vision, lead humbly and are open to feedback and criticism. They encourage employee development, leave the door open and delegate effectively.
  3. Team Cooperation – Teams that know how to work together and properly divvy up tasks gain the most from their group’s unique mix of knowledge and abilities.
  4. Constructive Communication – Teams are always a work in progress. That’s why the best teams are open to feedback and actively encourage constructive communication.
  5. Appreciation All Around – Just as the whole team cheers for a home run, effective teams cheer each other on for individual victories, big or small. Regularly recognizing each other’s work lets everyone know their effort is valued.

     I believe the women and men I work with demonstrate these qualities every day. Including myself, the women I work with directly do not have backgrounds in technology. We have worked as clinical nurses, nonprofit representatives, behavioral health specialists and even foreman supervisors. As a team, we use these skills with technology to achieve our own goals and the shared goals of our healthcare partners in this region.

     To conclude with a thought from Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success.”

     Regardless of the industry or project we are involved in, we must remember to work together and encourage all members of the team.

VEGA NUTTING is a is the Patient-Centered Medical Home Implementation Project Manager at the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.Her background in is practical nursing and health administration. She is a PCMH Certified Content Expert and is working toward her national certification in project management.

Local experts discuss north country’s economic outlook at Chamber event

The Economic Forecast event featured a panel of five speakers discussing the economic trouble spots and assets in the north country.

The Economic Forecast event featured a panel of five speakers discussing the economic trouble spots and assets in the north country. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

Trying to get a glimpse of the local economic future is more like staring into an opaque globe than a crystal ball, noted Donald C. Alexander, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development. [Read more…]

Congressional candidates weigh in on health care

Healthcare has proven to be a contentious issue in the race for New York’s 21st Congressional District, with all three candidates voicing displeasure with the Affordable Care Act, even as its provisions, once advanced as theoretical solutions, solidify into reality.

But the three candidates — Republican and Conservative nominee Elise M. Stefanik, Democrat and Working Families Party nominee Aaron G. Woolf and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello — have very different takes on how to fix the nation’s healthcare system.

For Ms. Stefanik, it’s a full repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, though the candidate, a former White House aide who lives in Willsboro, also acknowledged she would be willing to look at “immediate fixes” to the law in the meantime.

“I’ve made very clear since the beginning of the campaign that I would have voted no on Obamacare,” Ms. Stefanik said, using the term favored by Republicans. “I support the repeal but I feel that it is important to put forth what a comprehensive health care package would look like and, in the meantime, talk about those immediate fixes.”

To that end, Ms. Stefanik put forward a series of proposals last week to replace the law or at least temporarily fix the parts of it she said aren’t working well.

In contrast to Ms. Stefanik’s position, Mr. Woolf’s refusal to say whether he would have voted for the law have become a mini-theme on the campaign trail lately, cropping up at events centered on entirely different topics, as during a news conference on women’s issues last week in Watertown.

But from Mr. Woolf’s perspective, it is a “hypothetical” question that doesn’t pertain to his plans to fix certain parts of the law.

“Everyone knows where I stand on this piece of legislation,” Mr. Woolf, a documentary filmmaker with a home in Elizabethtown said. “This is what we have before us. And I think one of the things that characterizes a lot of the way I approach the world politically is fixing what we have before us.”

For his part, Mr. Funiciello, a bakery and cafe owner from Glens Falls, railed against the Affordable Care Act, calling it “anti-worker.” He advocated for a single-payer healthcare system in which the government would pay for all medical services.

“I think the ACA, to put it mildly, is the most anti-worker bill that has been passed in the United States since NAFTA and GATT were railroaded through by the corporate parties,” Mr. Funiciello said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. “That one destroying our manufacturing base and this one forcing the working poor to buy for-profit health insurance. And the injustice and the brutality of that is that we are already supporting the healthcare infrastructure to the tune of 60 percent.”

Citing an article titled “Paying for National Health Insurance — And Not Getting It” published in Health Affairs by Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein in 2002, Mr. Funiciello said that moving to a single-payer model would not be as onerous on taxpayers as previously thought.

The three candidates are running to replace Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who is not seeking re-election. As one of his first acts in office, Mr. Owens voted for the Affordable Care Act — a position he spent the following two election cycles defending.

Ms. Stefanik and Mr. Woolf both agreed on repealing the medical device tax but differed on most every other point.

For instance, Ms. Stefanik said she would look to protect those with pre-existing conditions by continuing to allow states to fund the “high risk pools” that provide insurance coverage for some individuals who do not qualify for other plans. The Woolf campaign attacked this idea as one that would return the health insurance marketplace to a system where working families suffer under high deductibles.

On purchasing health care across state lines:

“It would expand choices and lower costs. Right now in this district, especially in the Clinton County, Essex County area, even Franklin County, there are limited options. But if you go across to Vermont, there are many more options in the Burlington area, so again, I think it’s rethinking how we focus on a 21st century economy,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I also think its reflective of people of our age group who move around more frequently as opposed to our parents’s or grandparents’s generation. It allows healthcare coverage to be portable in a way it hasn’t before but ultimately that will help lower costs for everyone because you’re allowing the free market to thrive,” said Ms. Stefanik, who recently turned 30.

In a statement, the Woolf campaign said that Ms. Stefanik’s proposal would hobble states with strong patient and consumer protections in favor of states with weaker protections, ignores the varying rates of healthcare costs by geography and fails to take into account the fact that the Affordable Care Act allows for regulated cooperation over interstate purchasing.

On addressing tort reform and reducing so-called “frivolous lawsuits”:

“The cost of medical malpractice liabilities are rising so high, it’s forcing the practice of defensive medicine at the physician base but also for hospitals, and it’s ultimately driving the cost up for consumers. I think the way you can address tort reform is having a cap on what those lawsuits, basically more protection for our physicians, I think, so they’re avoiding driving up those costs and practicing defensive medicine,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I’m all too aware how easy it is to sue a physician and the pressures our physicians are facing, seeing patients for 7 to 15 minutes, it’s all that much easier for somebody to find an error,” Mr. Woolf said. “I think it’s facile to say ‘tort reform’ as just kind of a blanket statement. We need to cut down on frivolous lawsuits but we need to make sure we have a system of justice when things go wrong.”

The employer mandate:

“Basically it incentivizes businesses to not hire above the 50 employee number… I think we should be encouraging companies to grow. I’ve heard from a number of companies who are at the cusp who are not hiring those additional three or four people because they don’t want to be above the line,” Ms. Stefanik said.

According to Yianni Varonis, Mr. Woolf’s spokesman, Mr. Woolf wants to give businesses enough time to meet the employer mandate and would be open to delaying the implementation of the rule further.

Mr. Woolf would also like to extend tax credits offered to businesses with 25 or fewer employees who offer health insurance to those who employ between 25 and 50 people, Mr. Varonis said in an email.

Mr. Woolf also proposed creating another, more affordable category for individuals who are purchasing health insurance on a state marketplace — something that would, for instance, fall below the “Bronze” plan on the New York state exchange.

On the Affordable Care Act

“I believe that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare and Obamacare is not moving us in that direction. I think that’s become pretty clear to any candidate you speak to… That’s an important vote, it’s not a hypothetical. It’s a vote that actually came up in Congress and it’s a vote that our current member of Congress voted the day after he was sworn into Congress. It’s one of the top issues in this election cycle. I think it’s an important issue to stake where you are,” Ms. Stefanik said.

“I absolutely agree that people have a right to healthcare. I feel like, when you’re sick you should be able to go to a doctor. I think what we have to do is continually tweak and improve a system that allows that to happen. I think there are particular challenges with rural healthcare delivery, I think this district has particular challenges but I think what we have is a significant number of residents who were previously uninsured that now have quality affordable healthcare and that’s an important step,” Mr. Woolf said.

By Daniel Flatley, Times Staff Writer