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BVHS leaders speak on "The State of Bluffton Hospital"

Bluffton community leaders were invited to join Blanchard Valley Health System (BVHS) for a September 8 “State of Bluffton Hospital” presentation. Some 40 guests attended the meeting to hear from Myron Lewis, president and chief executive officer of Blanchard Valley Health System, Nicki Keuneke, director of operations at Bluffton Hospital and BJ Pasztor, chief nursing officer/chief operating officer acute care services.

These BVHS leaders reviewed the services provided at Bluffton Hospital including emergency room services, surgery in three operating rooms, specialty clinics, endoscopies, infusions and new “swing bed” services where the patient swings from receiving acute care services to receiving skilled nursing services while staying in the hospital.

Lewis spoke of the difficulty of knowing what lay ahead for the hospital during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consolidation, including the shifting of all labor and delivery services to Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, was instituted during a phase when BVHS was treating from seven to 60 COVID-19 patients in Findlay.

With the stabilizing effects of COVID-19 vaccination programs, hospital leaders are now considering how does the Bluffton facility “drive into the future?” Lewis noted that a lot has changed in the last 20 years ago and hospital services are not being delivered in the same way. He said that BVHS will be focused on technological advancements, workforce development and community partnerships.

Perhaps most notably, patients do not stay in the hospital for recovery as they did 20 or even 10 years ago. In many cases, hospital stays are shorter or no longer required. With surgeries such as a total joint replacement, patients can often go home the same day. Lewis advised that the BVHS hospitals will soon provide more outpatient surgeries than inpatient surgeries.

Bluffton Hospital, a 25-bed short-term acute care facility, has temporary permission to provide swing beds and is in the process of having a swing bed unit accredited. Swing bed services are a stop between hospital and home, where residents get the continued care they need while recovering from an illness, injury or surgery. Post-acute care stays may be up to 100 days. Patients may transition to home or other care facilities.

The presentation also covered the need to meet a growing demand for health care services by the baby boom generation. Lewis noted that hiring is challenging throughout the industry, and especially so in some fields. BVHS has just hired a rheumatologist and is actively recruiting another.

To expand local access to medical care, Bluffton Hospital includes a specialty clinic. Patients can receive care from specialists in the following areas: cardiology, ear, nose and throat, general surgery, gastroenterology, orthopedics, pain management, urology and wound care.

Other service developments: Bluffton Hospital is an accredited Stroke Ready facility that provides comprehensive care for patients suffering from neurological emergencies. A new 64-slice CT angiogram machine will soon be in use at Bluffton Hospital, which will expand the hospital’s diagnostic capabilities.

The need to connect with patients before they need medical services was also addressed. Lewis spoke about individuals delaying medical care after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said was “bad for health outcomes.” He emphasized that health is what an individual eats, drinks and does. World health rankings such as the Bloomberg Global Health Index place some 35 countries ahead of the United States.

BVHS wants to work with the Bluffton community to place a greater emphasis on wellness. This past year, Bluffton Hospital donated funds to develop a disc golf course at Village Park, as a way to increase physical activity and recreation opportunities. 

On September 24, the hospital will once again take part in the Bluffton Fall Festival. Activities outside the hospital from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. will include train rides, the opportunity to meet local healthcare providers, Kona Ice treats and pumpkin decorating – some 750 pumpkins will be provided. Keuneke says don’t wait to join in the fun, the pumpkins are sure to all be used.

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