The possible closure of a small, rural hospital in North Carolina illustrates the changes occurring in our health care system.
An article in the May 12, 2014, issue of the Wall Street Journal titled “Rural Hospitals Feel Pinch” caught my attention. It was about the possible closing of a hospital in Belhaven, North Carolina. I originally moved to North Carolina for a job that involved helping hospitals develop pharmacy services. This article was about one of the hospitals I worked with—called Pungo District Hospital at the time—to develop a pharmacist-led pharmacy service. I am sure that this hospital, like most small, rural hospitals, has struggled to survive over the years. The article notes that the town of Belhaven has a population of less than 1700 and that the hospital is its largest employer. “It’s the heart of our town,” the article quotes Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal. The article also mentions that rural hospitals have long been under financial pressure due to the rising cost of providing health care, the dwindling number of patients staying overnight, and the shift of more profitable services, such as cardiac care, to bigger medical centers.
This story reminds me that our health care system is changing right before our eyes. Regardless of whether you see this change as good or bad, the reality is that change will continue to happen. As you work to put your beliefs into action, don’t forget to prepare for the change that will continue to happen. I believe that will include the closing of some long-established community health resources as they are replaced by better/different ways to achieve the same/improved results. Drugs will no-doubt play an important role in whatever emerges, and it is up to us as pharmacists to make sure that we play an important role as well. That probably means that we will have to see our role differently in the changing system. Are you prepared?