New sign goes up at BWWMH

Workers at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital ready to put up the new sign denoting the facility’s affiliation with UAB.

BWWMH Physical Therapy gets festive


The Physical Therapy Department at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital got festive Friday in the donning of Halloween garb. Pictured are Ron Nolan as a hunter, Beth Randall as a trophy deer, Kim Gibbs as Lucille Ball, Belinda Williams as Rosie the Riveter and Lacretia Edwards as the Queen of Hearts.

Counselor’s Desk: Coping from the client’s perspective

There comes a time in everyone’s life where issues will arise unexpectedly. Finding a healthy way to deal with such issues, no matter how big or small, is synonymous to being able to cope with these issues as they present themselves. Many people live long lives and never find healthy and productive ways to cope with things. Therefore, I will share three of the most healthy ways I cope with troublesome news or events that come my way.

Though it is my belief that the most ideal coping mechanism one can possess is to do something healthy enough that it could ease one’s mind so much so that it could put them to sleep. The idea of coping with certain issues or mindsets, runs parallel to the feeling of being at peace with said issues.

Though everyone deals with issues differently, I believe all would agree that it is important to avoid becoming trapped in one’s mind with negative thoughts. That being said, I find it to be crucial to stay busy and occupied with healthy activities when attempting to cope with something.

Developing healthy hobbies and productive, time-consuming activities will do so much to assure one can sleep at night with a clear conscience. For example, something I do to put my mind at ease is to hit the basketball court. Even when playing alone, it consumes hours of my time and I always know my mind will not drift toward negativity. Also, any sort of exercise is great for not only the body but the mind as well.

Another healthy activity that works wonders for me, personally, is writing. No matter what it is I am writing about, I can become so immersed in my work that I lose track of how many times the hour glass has been turned over. Again, whit this, I can be alone and still have a great way to get negative thoughts out of my head and have them turn into inspiration for my writing.

One last thing I reach for when I feel I’m having trouble dealing with things is the telephone. More specifically, I call my best friend who has known me all of my life. Now, this only works because she is an extremely healthy and productive peer to have in my corner. Once we get to talking, the hours pass like seconds and I have yet to hang up with her and find myself still feeling upset. But everyone else, maybe it is a family member or any positive influence that one could confine in.

To conclude, I will reiterate the fact that everyone copes with issues differently and my particular ways may not work for all. Though, I will state that it’s far more possible than most think.

If it is you that is trying to work through something, then it is imperative to stay busy while being productive and healthy so you don’t get caught in a negative mindset. Just remember to keep that chin up, keep busy and keep believing and you will find your mind at peace far more often than ever before.

Stephen J. Root is a client of Tombigbee Outreach in Demopolis. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.

Counselor’s Desk: Second efforts and second chances

Miranda Lambert expressed in her hit song that “Everybody dies famous in a small town.” I recently came across this phenomenon of our culture when I was at a social function. I sat listening to conversation, but had little input as I am not from this town and the vast majority of the conversation was gossip about people I did not know.

What struck me about the conversation was the focus was not on this person’s current actions but, instead, was on things that had happened years earlier. I began to think about being famous in a small town. Do you ever get away from your past? If you change, what does it take for others to change their perception of you? Do we judge too many people on what we think we know about them rather than trying to understand their actions?

I often come across this in my professional life. Clients will share with me that they want others to treat them based on how they act now, not who they used to be. I work with substance abuse and mental health, so my clients often have rocky histories and some not-so-savory past behaviors. I try to emphasize the importance of being consistent with the new behaviors and taking personal responsibility in regard to the old ones.

We talk about not relying on words, but instead proving oneself with actions. And finally, since we are in a small town, we talk about changing as a whole and not simply picking and choosing which people we change for. Even with these steps in place though, are people receptive to others changing?

In graduate school, we studied people’s capacity to change and how, in society, people often see change in others as impossible. I’m writing this in hopes that people will take a look at their beliefs.  Do you think people are capable of changing? Do you give people a chance to prove themselves or are you hesitant to afford a second chance?

I believe that I would give people a second chance just like I know that I would want to be given a second chance. How often do we hold people hostage to their past when they are showing us a new present? I feel like we are jaded as a society, stuck over people who have let us down; those people we thought had changed but, in reality, had not. I hope we are not too jaded to see the possibility of someone needing a fresh start. I certainly hope someone would give me a second chance after I proved worthy of it.

Kate Crawford is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the director of Tombigbee Outreach. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.

Counselor’s Desk: Finding purpose amid loss

Back in 2008, I was thrown for a loop. I was working in the big city in what would appear to be a glamorous designer job. Although I enjoyed my job, there always seemed to be something missing, but I didn’t know what it was. I was sleepwalking through life without any direction or purpose. Then a tragedy took place in my family as my sister suddenly passed away. Just four weeks later I was let go from my job due to the economic recession. Lay-offs were taking place all around me and there were very few opportunities left for people with my skill set at the time. I really had no choice but to stop and rethink my path.

Each member of my family grieved uniquely from the others. I tried to slow down and notice things that I had not made time for before. I reconnected with nature and literally stopped to smell the roses. I made a point to spend more quality time with loved ones. I spoke with my three-year-old niece who lost her mother and was perplexed by what she said. “My mommy dived in the water and now she is with Jesus.”

This was very unusual to me because this is not how she passed. There were also noticeable changes in her five-year-old sister’s behavior. This sparked an interest in me to find out about how children interpret death. I took off to a local university library and found some very interesting information about brain development and how it shapes a child’s understanding of the concept of death. It turns out that it is not until the age range of 5-8 years that a child can grasp the finality of losing a parent.

This exploration guided me on a path that has felt right all along. I went back to college and studied psychology and counseling and eventually became a counselor. I am now in a very rewarding career where I help people and I feel a sense of accomplishment every day.

One thing I learned along the way is that it is very important to have a purpose in life. Back when I was working as a designer I didn’t have any idea about my purpose. It wasn’t something I would have even thought about. Looking back, I was creating functional and beautiful spaces but it didn’t mean anything to me. I now reflect on the things that I do at my job and feel good about it because I know that my sister is looking down at me with pride. Now I reflect on my life and say to myself “this is something I would be proud to engrave on my tombstone.” Ten years ago I would not have been able to say that.

Some life experiences have a meaning that we have to discover for ourselves. My 2008 experiences were a big flashing sign telling me that I needed to make a shift. In fact, I think that my sister’s death was a wake-up call for my sleepwalking through life. It is unfortunate that it took such a tragedy to get my attention, but once I realized it, I was loaded with motivation to make those changes. I wouldn’t want to relive those experiences, but they did lead me to where I am today. I have carried with me the feeling that to not find a new path would have allowed my sister’s death to be in vain.

I come to work each day and I love to help people discover their life’s purpose or get back on the right path or accomplish whatever need they may have. It helps me to realize that some things happen for a reason. We need to look closely to find the reason and discover the meaning for ourselves.

Jennifer Meador is a Master’s Level, National Certified Counselor who is pursuing her professional license. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.

Counselor’s Desk: Administering the medicine of compassion

As a long time nurse working any many different settings, I wondered what I was getting myself into when I took this job. Would I enjoy it as much? Would I be safe working with those that were mentally ill and/or struggling with addiction? Would I be able to deal with all the problems that arise when dealing with their struggles?

Then I thought about all the other settings that I had worked in. Was I really safe in those places and how many people had I come in contact with that were just like the clients I treat now and just didn’t know that they were struggling with mental illness and/or addiction? That’s the stigma-riddled mindset of a lot of people in society today. They don’t understand, so they would rather group those people together and not even recognize them as members of society. But I was shocked – as most people are – to learn there are a lot of people who are struggling with some form of mental illness or addiction or both yet are functioning members of society.

Some work full-time jobs, are husbands, wives, parents. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds. I had to change my own way of thinking when it came to working this job and become a different nurse altogether.

I have always been a compassionate nurse when it came to my patients, especially the elderly. But I had to move that compassion and understanding into a different group of clients. They can be difficult, even trying and exhausting sometimes. But their way of thinking is often different than someone who doesn’t struggle with mental illness or addiction. They can be struggling with something that seems so minor to someone that doesn’t have a mental illness, but their whole world could be falling apart.

If you know someone that has struggled with mental illness and/or addiction, please have a little more compassion towards that person and just don’t assume they should get over it. I’m still learning to have more compassion for their struggles and it isn’t easy, so I know it’s not easy for them to just get over it. So for the person out there that has never struggled, put yourself in their shoes and try to have some compassion for those struggling and don’t just brush them off. It might make a difference in their life.

Katie Barley is the Registered Nurse for Tombigbee Outreach in Demopolis. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.

Healthcare on Wheels receives $900,000 grant

Hospital staff has “hit the ground running” now that the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority has received funding to pay for a Community Health Care Needs Assessment, Arthur Evans, CEO/Administrator, told the board Thursday.

Evans said both the Marengo County Commission and the City of Demopolis pitched in $27,500 to pay Quorum Healthcare Resources for the extensive assessment of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, which is expected to take about three months.

The assessment will review the healthcare needs of the residents in the five counties the hospital serves, how the hospital is operating and improvements that can be made.

As part of the assessment healthcare professionals, civic leaders and others will be asked to give their input on hospital services.

Evans told the board the Healthcare on Wheels program began now that the hospital has been given a $900,000 grant extension.

The van, manned by a doctor or nurse practitioner and a nurse, visits 13 rural communities in five counties but is expected to add more stops as demand grows, he said. Just in the first few days of operation the van saw 34 patients.

Dr. Judy Travis, a member of the board, has been traveling with the van during its initial startup and said, “I’m having a ball.”

She has been disappointed that other physicians who initially agreed to help have backed out, but Evans said another doctor is interested in becoming part of the Healthcare on Wheels staff.

The hospital also has met all the latest requirements to receive funding to start construction on the Adult Psych Unit at the hospital. Verification has been turned into the state, and the hospital is waiting for approval.

The board approved Zach Ford to be the recipient of a hospital nursing scholarship. Under the agreement, Ford will return to Demopolis to work after completing his studies or pay back the loan. The scholarship will pay up to $4,000 per year.

Approved for reappointment to the consulting staff were radiologists Drs. Jeffrey Brown, Lauren Thorington and Wilford French; and to the ER staff, Dr. Blake Dewitt.

Receiving initial appointment approval was Dr. Krystal Smith in radiology.

Evans discusses BWWMH future with Demopolis Rotary

Art Evans speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday, March 30. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Art Evans speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday, March 30. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Demopolis’ hospital will “take a ‘selfie’” over the next three months as it conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

Art Evans, CEO/administrator of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, told members of the Rotary Club Wednesday the assessment, being conducted by an independent agency, will cover demand for future services, where patients go if not to the local hospital, service time performance, core services, physicians’ needs and a SWOT analysis.

The last such CHNA occurred five years ago, Evans said. They are conducted on a regular basis to gauge how well the hospital is doing and how it can improve.

Part of the CHNA will be a survey of stakeholders in the five-county area the hospital covers, he continued. People such as health care professionals, elected officials and community leaders will be asked to give their opinion on improving hospital services.

Once the CHNA is complete, the hospital must set out an implementation strategy to address improvement issues as mandated by the IRS. The assessment helps the hospital recognize trends so that it can be proactive in preparing for the future.

Evans also talked about the issue of Medicaid funding in Alabama. Medicaid, he said, is limited to children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. Alabama has the most restrictive eligibility standards in the country since those requesting aid cannot make more than $2,867 a year.

For every 32 cents the state puts into Medicaid, the federal government adds 68 cents. Alabama has the third lowest cost per enrollee in the country.

The proposed legislation to add only $15 million to the Medicaid budget will fall far short of what is needed, Evans continued. “Level funding is going to force Medicaid to cut services,” he said.

The hospitals and medical professionals in the state have been working for the past two years on a Regional Care Organization plan which would start Oct. 1. Because it is done within the state and each RCO would manage its allocated funds, the usual 15 percent administrative fee would not have to be paid to an outside insurance company to oversee, saving costs for the state.

However, unless more money is added to the Medicaid budget, the RCOs are in jeopardy of not being able to begin and help keep down health care costs for those in need.

Evans stressed to the Rotarians that hospitals in the state get no money from the General Fund Budget. Hospitals themselves pay into a state fund that is matched at the federal level three-to-one. That money is returned to the hospitals after the state takes out 15 percent for the Medicaid agency.

The General Fund Budget, he explained, helps pay for physicians, pharmacies and nursing homes.

To help generate more funds for the hospital, Evans said BWWMH is taking advantage of the federal influx of $750 million to help jump-start the RCO program by submitting plans on how to save money in the long run. If approved, the hospital will be rewarded monetarily.

The hospital, said Evans, expected to submit three plans on Thursday. They include a more efficient admittance of patients to the Emergency Department, whether there for clinical ailments or more critical needs; group physicians to handle more Medicaid patients, and better use of the Health Care on Wheels van.

The hospital has received a $900,000 grant to extend the Health Care on Wheels for one year. It will equip the van and physicians’ offices, including technology to connect the van to doctors’ offices, and will pay for the doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to man the van.

The van started last week and will have a rotating two-week schedule through the rural areas of the five counties the hospital serves.

The hospital on Tuesday received its audit report. While the auditors gave it a clean report, Evans said it showed that operating costs are 107 percent of the net patient service revenue.

The good news, he said, is that it is the lowest cost-to-revenue among the peer hospitals that the auditors used as comparisons.

Hospitals now have to rely on other sources of revenue besides patients paying their fee. The difference between BWWMH and the other hospitals it was compared to is that the others received millions of dollars in local government support.

The local hospital lost $650,000 in 2015. Thanks to cost-cutting measures and more efficient operations, the loss is considerably less that previous years. It is trending in the right direction, said Evans.

Hospital passes 2016 budget

Estimating gross revenues of $67,865,378, the Board of Directors for the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority passed the 2016 budget at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 29.

CEO/Administrator of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Art Evans said after expenditures and contractual adjustments with insurance companies, the hospital is expected to realize a slight profit for the year.

The hospital board voted to expedite a bridge loan from the City of Demopolis by authorizing Evans to write a letter of intent. The letter will state the THA will use other properties as collateral for the loan.

The City Council voted at its last meeting to approve the loan of just under $1 million until the $926,000 grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes through in about six months, said Evans.

With the loan the hospital will be able to begin work on hospital improvements. The city owns the hospital building and grounds, but the THA has other property surrounding it that can be used as collateral.

The board also gave approval to hiring a firm to study the hospital’s strategic planning and make recommendations for eliminating or adding services. However, the proposal was approved only if a third party will pay for the study.

Evans said officials from the county have expressed an interest in hiring Quorum Consultants to assess the hospital. The board’s Public Partnership Committee, headed by Thomas Moore, will meet with city and county officials to see if they would be willing to pay for the service.

In other action, the board approved a resolution to authorize a separate checking account at Robertson Banking Company for the hospital’s gift shop. The move will make it easier for the shop to purchase merchandize and pay bills.

In his report to the board, Evans encouraged board members to obtain trustee certification from the Alabama Hospital Association.

He bragged on the nine-member board who are “very engaged and very involved,” he said.

Evans said the second floor of the hospital now houses only the Geri-Psych and Self Recovery units and the ICU in anticipation of work to be done for the 10-bed psychiatric ward. All other patients have been moved to the third floor.

The hospital is doing all the work it can until plans for the new ward are approved by the Alabama Department of Public Health and actual construction can begin. He said the unit should be operational in April or May of 2016.

The board also approved the reappointment of Dr. Laura Bunch, oncology; Dr. Gregory Broughton, urology; and Drs. Adam Harris and Maria Oquendo, emergency medicine.

To accommodate the holiday scheduling, the next board meeting will be Dec. 10.

DPD arrests former hospital technician for alleged sexual crimes against patients

156395On Thursday, Oct. 7, the Demopolis Police Department arrested Leland Bert Taylor, Jr., 51, from Deatsville for Sodomy in the First Degree and Sexual Abuse in the First Degree.

Demopolis Chief of Police Tommie Reese said Taylor worked at Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital as a Radiology Technician for over three years.

Reese said on at least two occasions while Taylor was working at Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital he committed these sexual acts on patients to whom he was attending.

Reese commended his Criminal Investigations Division for bringing Taylor to justice. He also stated that the investigation continues and more charges could be added.