St. Lawrence Health budgets three years to launch $10 million transportation project | Health matters

GOUVERNEUR — St. Lawrence Health plans to spend a $10 million USDA grant over three years to “improve the entire EMS system in St. Louis County. Lawrence County,” according to J. Brent Bishop, vice president of St. Lawrence Health in Business Development.

The project, which consists of three strands, aims to increase the number of emergency personnel and make it easier for them to know to which hospital a patient should be transported.

First, SLH’s electronic medical record system will be enhanced and made available to rescue squads and other medical personnel, aimed at providing “increased quality of service and potentially life-saving treatment during emergency situations,” the president of the SLH Donna M. McGregor this week.

Second, Clarkson University and SLH will partner to offer training and certification programs to more emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

“There is a shortage of emergency physicians/paramedics in the county and state. The training will enhance the skills and knowledge of existing EMTs/Paramedics,” said Mr. Bishop.

The third step will be for SLH to partner with local rescue teams to launch the actual transport consortium, which will coordinate rescue teams and SLH’s three hospitals – Canton-Potsdam, Massena and Gouverneur – to get patients to the hospital that has the appropriate specialists or unique services. Patient transportation will not be limited to these three hospitals. If a patient needs to go to a facility outside of St. Lawrence Health, like Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, it will get there.

“This will improve access and all inter-facility/intra-facility transfers within and outside of St. Lawrence Health, wherever existing regional ambulance services currently operate,” Mr Bishop said. “This is not specific to patients with SLH and we will follow the correct emergency medical protocols. The goal is to improve the entire EMS system in St. Lawrence County and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.”

A portion of the $10 million will go toward launching an inter-facility transport coordination center that will provide emergency and medical staff with patient information through SLH’s EPIC Emergency Medical Record (EMR), which went live on April 30. Health officials at St. The Lawrences say there is a possibility that electronic records will improve field staff, but it has not yet been tested.

Mr. Bishop said they were only able to get a “best-in-class” medical records system through their relationship with Rochester Regional Health.

“[It] otherwise, they would not be granted without higher education,” he said.

St. Lawrence Health is still in the early phases of coordinating the grant. Mr Bishop said key dates, such as when Clarkson’s programs would start, were forthcoming.

“The logistics are still being finalized and the official date has not yet been set,” he said.

SLH’s announcement of the program earlier this week said the lead organization for the transportation consortium will be Gouverneur Hospital.

“For the purposes of the grant, Gouverneur Hospital is uniquely positioned to serve as a lead organization because of the location and demographics of the service area,” said Mr. Bishop. “Gouverneur Hospital’s Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to health care by preserving essential services in rural communities. CAH status allows GH to receive cost-based reimbursements for its Medicare patients as well as increased reimbursement for Medicaid patients. This allows the hospital to provide services in volumes that, due to relatively high fixed costs, are usually unsustainable at the levels of demand that result from serving small, geographically isolated communities.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determines whether a hospital receives a critical access designation. It is determined based on factors including the average length of stay of hospital patients, the number of beds and proximity to other hospitals.

The transport consortium will include a partnership with Potsdam Rescue, which SLH’s announcement earlier this week described as a primary resource for transporting patients to hospitals. However, the program will not be limited to the Potsdam Rescue Squad. It will also include “Canton Rescue and Massena Rescue, and possibly others, through the development of the EMS consortium,” according to Mr. Bishop.

“The creation of the Consortium for Rural Transport St. Lawrence will involve coordination between all involved entities and personnel,” he said.

In parallel with the consortium project, St. Lawrence Health is in the midst of a $71.8 million, 121,000-square-foot expansion of Canton-Potsdam Hospital. Officials estimate the project will be completed in 2025, doubling the hospital’s floor space and adding 11 new emergency rooms along with 15 new medical-surgical beds.

The emergency expansion will give this department a total of 28 rooms. The added medical-surgical beds will be self-contained, with private bathrooms and showers and overnight accommodation for patients’ families. The original medical-surgical beds, many of which are now double or triple occupancy, can be reduced to single or double occupancy, depending on needs.

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