Commissioners support proposed hospital legislation

During her report to the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners, Health and Human Services Director Kim Harrell noted that the closing of the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital had caused some confusion about the status of the county’s medical clinic.

The clinic, located within a portion of the hospital building, is still open; however, the unexpected shut down of the hospital did require some quick action on behalf of the clinic.

“When the hospital closed on May 22 we had to work pretty quickly to get a contact done with Dr. McGrath which is our clinic medical director,” Harrell explained. “We also worked quickly with Hugh Chatham Hospital for chest x-rays to get a provider to be able to do those for us quickly.”

Harrell also said an administrative staff member resigned on June 5 so extended clinic hours have been suspended for the time being. The application deadline for that position is Wednesday and Harrell said they would begin interviewing candidates as quickly as possible in order to fill the position.

Harrell also noted that a pertussis (whooping cough) case was diagnosed in a person who participated in the recent Impact Yadkin program.

“We had to jump into action pretty quickly when we were notified and dealt with getting information out to probably 700 to 1,000 people that were participating in Impact Yadkin,” she said. “We’ve had real good communication and support from the leadership of Impact Yadkin so that’s gone very well.”

Information is posted on the county website for Impact participants who may have been exposed to pertussis.

A public hearing took place during Monday’s meeting regarding the rezoning of a property located at 5503 St. Pauls Church Road from community business to rural agriculture. No speakers came forward, and the board approved the zoning change.

Also approved during Monday’s meeting was a memorandum of agreement between the county and the NC Wildlife Service for the public fishing area at the Donnaha river park in East Bend. The area is used by the public for launching boats and fishing along the Yadkin River. The Wildlife Service has partnered with the county on all other river access parks. Following this new agreement, the NC Wildlife Service will install a kiosk for information concerning the Donnaha park fishing area as well as patrol the park and issue citations to anyone violating the rules of the public fishing area.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Walker said the new agreement also will allow the NC Wildlife Commission to apply for a grant to upgrade the boat access at the park as was recently done at the Shores Yadkin River access.

Chairman Kevin Austin said he liked the idea of increased patrol at the Donnaha park as there had been issues there in the past.

“I will say that every time we have any trouble with anybody and we make them leave, nine times out of 10 they go back across the bridge into Forsyth County. We have a lot of trouble with that, people coming from Forsyth and Stokes county because it’s out near them,” Walker said.

“Anything we can do to make it safe for our citizens,” Austin added.

The board also approved a budget amendment for the Yadkin Memorial Park to purchase additional picnic tables and tandem kayaks which will be rented out to lake visitors.

A resolution supporting the Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital (REACH) Act also was approved by the commissioners on Monday. Senate Bill 1648 was recently introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. In light of the closures of numerous small rural hospitals in the last few years, the bill seeks to create a new designation for Rural Emergency Hospital under Medicare aside from the existing critical access designation which requires inpatient beds in a facility.

According to a release issued by the county following the meeting, “the REACH Act would establish the Rural Emergency Hospital designation under Medicare that will allow emergency medical services in rural areas to be compensated at 110% of the reasonable costs. This will strongly encourage premier medical service providers to re-establish in rural areas like Yadkin County.”

Chairman of the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners Kevin Austin said, “This Grassley bill appears to be tailor made for Yadkin County and may well be the answer to the many prayers of our citizens. We have encouraged Senator Burr and Senator Tillis and Congresswoman Foxx to support the bill and to ask all their colleagues to join in and pass it into law in the immediate future.”

Comments from Grassley note a $10.6 billion economic impact if the remaining critical access rural hospitals in the nation were to close. What he doesn’t quantify, Austin noted during the meeting, was the loss of lives when area residents no longer have access to a nearby emergency room.

“I would venture to say that the value of the lives saved would far exceed that,” Austin said.

County Manager Lisa Hughes said she and County Attorney Ed Powell already had discussed the bill with the offices of Burr and Tillis.

“They are well aware of Yadkin County’s support of this legislation and they support it as well,” Hughes said.

The county’s resolution in the support of the bill will be forwarded to Burr’s and Tillis’ offices as well as Foxx’s office and all county clerks in the state. Austin said he also hopes the bill will be discussed at the upcoming conferences for county commissioners.

“Hopefully this bill will get some nationwide momentum,” Austin said.

Powell said he thought the bill had a good chance of passing.

Representatives from the board will be attending the National Association of Counties conference July 10-13. Austin was nominated and approved to serve as voting delegate for the conference with Commissioner David Moxley serving as the alternate. Moxley also was approved to serve as the voting delegate for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners’ conference which is scheduled for Aug. 20-23.

The next meeting of the Yadkin County commissioners will be July 13 at 7 p.m. The board will have a joint meeting with the Yadkin County School Board on Aug. 31.

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

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