MOUNT VERNON — Congressman Zack Space, D-Ohio 18, visited Knox Community Hospital on Wednesday afternoon, after a visit to Newark’s Owens Corning Plant in Licking County.
During both visits, Space discussed the local benefits that will result from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Today, he will visit Coshocton and Muskingum counties.
At KCH, Space; Ken Engstrom, his district director; and Glenn Enslen, district grants coordinator, toured the hospital’s newest facilities. Bruce White, the hospital’s chief executive officer, and Bruce Behner, chief operating officer, showed them the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, where two patients recognized Space and introduced themselves.
In the new Wound Center, Sarah Biedelschies, program director, showed Space the hyperbaric chambers in which two patients were taking treatments.
“We’ve seen quite a few wounds healed,” said Biedelschies, “people who have had wounds for 10 years or more. One patient had a wound for 21 years. And this is the only city in a seven-county area that has this service.”
“This is fascinating,” Space told them. “Amazing. Keep up the good work. You should be very proud of the work you’re doing here.”
The group toured an area being used for storage that had been designated for cardiac rehab center renovation.
Stacey Beal, KCH marketing director, said that renovation is on hold due to the economy.
“It’s regrettable, but we can’t proceed with the renovation until something shores up [in the economy],” she said.
Space said he is concerned about rural health care for central Ohioans.
“There’s a rural care aspect we need to be careful of,” he said. “It’s not just about who’s going to pay for it.”
In the Cancer Care Center, H. Rasheed, M.D., medical oncologist, showed Space the chemotherapy treatment rooms and discussed the use of telecommunication in medicine, about which Space said he is passionate.
He spoke about the telecom portion of the ARRA and the $7.2 million in stimulus funds going into improvement of telecommunications, particularly to providing broadband access, high-speed Internet in unserved and underserved areas. Space said central Ohio has a “great big gaping hole [in the broadband network] in my congressional district and, really, all of southeastern and parts of central and southern Ohio where there’s no service. This money was designed to remedy that deficiency.”
“We’ve put a lot of work into the proposal [for telecom improvement],” he said. “It will bring a lot of money back into the district so everyone or nearly everyone in this part of Ohio will have access. It’s really important, for a lot of reasons. Not just a matter of convenience. It’s certainly important for economic development. Farmers, who typically live in areas that don’t have access to broadband ... in order to gain a competitive edge, they really need access, for business practices, for research, for farming guides, for Farm Service Administration applications. Savvy farmers know that and they are some of the strongest advocates for this.
“It applies to any business, not just farming. Manufacturers are much less likely to relocate in areas without universal access ... but it extends well beyond economic development.”
Space said the healthcare delivery system is becoming increasingly technology dependent, and the role of broadband in the healthcare delivery process, while still in its infancy, is becoming extremely significant.
He mentioned other benefits such as neonatal telemedicine, education, distance learning, connecting parents with their children’s schools and long-term independence for senior citizens.
“This is just the beginning,” Space said. “We don’t even know, in 10 years from now, the impact broadband will have on the healthcare delivery process. We know it will be more significant than it is now. Probably much more.
“There are a lot of inequities we experience now because of where we live. Broadband’s helping us overcome those disadvantages in a lot of ways. So it’s an absolute priority for us. Now is the time. The stimulus plan has $7.2 billion devoted to underserved and unserved areas, so the iron is hot; we intend to strike and we have built a broad base of regional support. In the end, if this plan succeeds, everybody will have access to broad band in this part of the state. We’re very excited about this; we’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to this. If it succeeds, we think it will enhance the quality of life and improve the economic environment for hundreds of thousands of folks here in east-central and southeastern Ohio.”
Space noticed the large color photographs of Knox County scenes and landmarks on the hospital walls, a recent addition. When his staff admired the photos, he responded, “Oh, there’s a lot of material here in Knox County for pictures,” and told them of his four years here while attending Kenyon College. Introduced to Brad Smith, M.D., also a Kenyon graduate, Space and Smith traded memories of their college days.
“I love Knox County,” Space said.
In the radiation oncology center, Space watched a demonstration of the $1.8-million Varian linear accelerator and its intensity modulated radiation therapy feature. White told Space the funds for the accelerator were raised by the community in the Hope Accelerated campaign. The IMRT was purchased with $190,000 in stimulus dollars secured by Space and other Ohio politicians.
Lauren Blatt, radiation therapist, said the IMRT utilizes 120 lead leaves that shape the beam of radiation to the shape of the tumor and constantly adjust to compensate for the motion of breathing.
“Patients would otherwise have to drive to Columbus everyday,” she told Space.
In the emergency room, Space was greeted by Rod Saunders, R.N., who told him the hospital expects 30,000 patient visits this year. Space asked if residents are utilizing the ER for primary care, and Saunders confirmed that was the case.
Space asked if Knox County has a federally qualified healthcare center. When told no, he told the KCH administrators to let him know because there may be something which can be done.
“We want to know how we can help people who are losing their jobs, their health insurance,” he said.