McCook, other hospitals benefit from telecom grant

Monday, November 25, 2002

Six more rural hospitals across the state, including Community Hospital, have the opportunity to install interactive video systems for improved access to medical and educational programming, thanks to the availability of funds totaling $336,000. Fund commitments include a $165,000 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to the Heartland Health Alliance from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; a 129,000 grant from the BryanLGH Foundation; and contributions totaling $42,000 from the participating hospitals.

Together, a total of 20 hospitals will participate in the interactive video network.

To date, more than $630,000 in grants and contributions have helped facilitate this expansion.

In addition to Community Hospital, this latest round of funding will allow installation of systems at these rural hospitals: Butler County Health Care Center in David City, Henderson Health Care Services in Henderson, Webster County Community Hospital in Red Cloud, Brodstone Memorial Nuckolls County Hospital in Superior and Johnson County Hospital in Tecumseh. These facilities are in the process of selecting equipment and connectivity options.

"Rural Nebraska will benefit significantly from the medical opportunities made available by the telemedicine grants provided to the Heartland Health Alliance," said Andre Boening, general field representative for the RUS in Nebraska. "On behalf of the Rural Utilities Service, I applaud the Alliance for recognizing the benefits of expanding this interactive video network for rural residents and for taking the initiative to secure the financial assistance needed," he adds.

A similar grant was received in November 2001 and added eight rural health care facilities to the original network. These recipients, currently in the process of implementing video systems, include Boone County Health Center in Albion, Crete Area Medical Center in Crete, Jefferson Community Health Center in Fairbury, Phelps Memorial Health Center in Holdrege, Valley County Hospital in Ord, Cherry County Hospital in Valentine, Garden County Hospital in Oshkosh and Community Hospital in Falls City.

The six Alliance hospitals that made up the original group and that have interactive video systems are Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center in Beatrice, BryanLGH Medical Center in Lincoln, Great Plains Regional Medical Center in North Platte, Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings, Memorial Hospital in Aurora and Tri-County Area Hospital in Lexington. Of these, five use fiber optic technology provided by Dark Fiber Solutions, based in York, Neb.

"Installing these interactive video systems will help rural hospitals expand local medical and educational programming opportunities, and thus improve the medical care provided to rural residents," says Ken Foster, executive director of the Heartland Health Alliance and vice president of regional development and strategic planning for BryanLGH Health System. "In addition, sites will be able to bring formal training programs for nursing and allied health directly to their communities."

The Alliance was organized in 1995 to enhance the quality, availability and cost effectiveness of rural health care through a comprehensive care delivery system. Today, the Alliance includes 33 Nebraska and Kansas hospitals, reaching as far west as North Platte, as far north as Valentine, and as far south and east as McCook, Falls City and Marysville, Kan.

Each Alliance hospital continues its own governance, control and autonomy; and each hospital selects the network services it will use and the level of involvement in programs offered. Over the past seven years, the Alliance has been instrumental in bringing programs such as 55PLUS, Lifeline and diabetes education to member communities. The Alliance members also work together to improve clinical services through education and training programs in such areas as chest pain and advanced life support. Administrative support is provided through member services such as physician credentials verification. The result is improved health care for more citizens in the region.

In addition to the hospitals listed above, remaining Alliance members include Children's Hospital in Omaha, Community Medical Center in Falls City, Community Memorial Healthcare in Marysville, Kan., Community Memorial Hospital in Syracuse, Fillmore County Hospital in Geneva, Franklin County Memorial Hospital in Franklin, Harlan County Health System in Alma, Jennie M. Melham Memorial Medical Center in Broken Bow, Memorial Health Systems in Seward, Nebraska Methodist Hospital in Omaha, Nemaha County Hospital in Auburn, Saunders County Health Services in Wahoo, Tri Valley Health System in Cambridge, Warren Memorial Hospital in Friend and York General Hospital in York.

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