Colon cancer, colonoscopies and one woman’s story

On June 20, Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics will be the happy host of a 10-foot tall pop-up, super-sized colon. Visitors can tunnel through the 20-foot inflatable large intestine, which weighs almost 150 pounds, to learn more about pre-cancerous conditions and the various stages of colon cancer, as well as cancer prevention and early detection. The event will be held at the Chelan Fire Station from 4–7 PM, during the evening farmers market at Riverwalk Park.

We invite shoppers with enough guts to visit Polly Polyp’s market stand and follow the poop emoji trail to the Super Colon, where they will have a chance to walk through the interactive exhibit. Visitors can also win prizes and enjoy family-friendly health, wellness and prevention booths.

Colon cancer, cancer of the colon and rectum, is the third most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, and the second leading cancer killer in the country. It’s also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers if detected early, says LCCHC general surgeon Dr. Tabetha Bradley, because it begins as small, benign polyps that can easily be removed before they turn into cancerous cells.

Colonoscopies are the gold standard in colon cancer prevention. When you have a colonoscopy, your doctor inserts a long, flexible tube called a colonoscope into your rectum. The scope has a tiny video camera at its end that shows an image on an external screen, so your doctor can view the inside of the colon, also called the large intestine. During the procedure, your doctor looks for polyps and remove any she finds using a wire tool with a loop on the end, threaded through the colonoscope. Removing polyps means they won’t turn into cancer.

However, things intestinal still remain a taboo subject for most people. That may be why about one in three adults from 50 to 75 years old still hasn’t been tested for colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older, and they often don’t show any symptoms in the early stages.

One Woman’s Story
When 52-year-old Tamara Wolf of Manson ended up in the emergency room at Lake Chelan Hospital with an ulcer a few years ago, the doctor recommended she get a colonoscopy. Like many patients, Tamara opted out. “Everyone told me the prep was awful, and the test was invasive,” she said. “And I didn’t have any symptoms. I didn’t think I needed one.”

A busy grandma of six, Tamara was enrolled in an online veterinary assistant training program. Between studying, grandmothering and selling her homegrown blueberries at the local farmers market, two years passed before she saw a doctor again, this time for a minor hernia.

During the exam, Dr. Bradley, like the ER doctor, recommended a colonoscopy, but Tamara turned it down again. However, when labs uncovered serious anemia, Bradley and Tamara’s family physician Dr. Tobe Harberd insisted she at least take a stool sample test. The results showed blood in the stool, and her medical team refused to operate on the hernia until she had a colonoscopy. Tamara finally agreed to the test.

Harberd performed the screening. As he carefully thread the colonoscope through the ascending colon, he found a mass so large it blocked the camera’s passage. He had to reverse and exit after clipping a snippet to biopsy.

Tamara waited impatiently for the pathology results. When the phone rang the next day, Harberd had bad news. Tamara had Stage 2 colon cancer, meaning it had already spread throughout the organ. “My whole world crashed down around me,” she said. “I started to bawl. The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Am I going to die?’”

Bradley operated on Tamara soon after, removing her ascending colon, part of her small intestine called the cecum, and her appendix. Tamara was lucky. The cancer hadn’t spread outside of the bowel. They caught it just in time, she said. “If I’d put off a colonoscopy one more time, that would have been it.”

Now, almost two years cancer free, Tamara lives with a heavy routine of tests, blood work, CT scans and colonoscopies. She worries daily about the cancer coming back. It especially hits first thing in the morning, she says, when she wakes up. Every time she feels an ache or a twinge, she wonders if it’s cancer. Tamara has become an advocate for colon cancer screenings and would love to see Dr. Harberd have an overbooked colonoscopy schedule.

“This all could have been avoided if I had agreed to a colonoscopy when the doctor first suggested it,” she said. “They would have found the polyps earlier and removed them. If I had any advice, it would be to get your colonoscopy as soon as you can. It’s not that bad, and it may save your life.”

You are at higher risk of colon cancer if you’re 50 or older, are overweight or a smoker, or have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. Younger people are exhibiting polyps more often, and researchers think it may be related to diet, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption. While many people with colon cancer do not experience any symptoms in the early stages, symptoms include rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness, unexplainable weight loss, a change in bowel habits or stool consistency. Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

Ross Hurd again named one of nation’s community CIOs to know

For the eighth time, Ross Hurd, Chief Information Officer at Lake Chelan Community Hospital, was recognized as one of the nation’s Community Hospital CIOs to Know by Becker’s Healthcare. Hurd was one of 71 CIOs listed.

Hospitals and health systems rely on CIOs and IT department leaders to develop long-term technology strategy and oversee EMR implementation, as well as support telehealth, data-gathering and cybersecurity initiatives. Those who lead community hospital and health system IT departments encounter unique challenges in connecting staff members at many locations and providing access to care for rural Americans with limited resources.

The recognized professionals were set apart by outstanding recognition they’ve earned and exciting new projects they’re piloting. Hurd has served as LCCHC CIO since 2006. He oversees the implementation of new technologies and seeks out partnerships with larger hospitals in the state to expand service offerings. For example, the hospital’s telestroke program gives Lake Chelan clinicians real-time, 24/7 access to Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center’s stroke team.

New hospital building updates presented at Community Forum, groundbreaking Spring 2020

Chelan, WA –  Over 100 community members attended a Lake Chelan Community Hospital District Forum May 8, where Board Commissioners reported on Board committee work and the status of the new hospital building project. Live-stream video of the Forum by LakeChelanNow.com was viewed over 1,500 times and is available on their Facebook page.

Board members gave short reports on each of the Board’s five committees, followed by question and answer sessions. Committees included Community, Quality, Finance, Affiliations and Partnerships, and Facilities.

Near the end of the Forum, Commissioner Mary Signorelli reported on Hospital District facilities, including the new building project. Hospital District residents voted in April 2017 to approve a bond to help fund construction of a hospital facility on hospital-owned property at Chelan Apple Blossom Center, near Wal-Mart, across from the Columbia Valley Community Health Clinic.

Signorelli discussed an updated timeline from Bouten Construction, general contractors. Within the new timeline, anticipated groundbreaking will be Spring 2020, with project completion projected for Fall of 2021.

Increased construction costs have necessitated downsizing the new hospital building from what was envisioned two years ago, explained Signorelli, who said the Board is determined to stay within the $44.5 million budget they presented to voters. In order not to exceed that amount, the square footage has been scaled down from the 77,000 square foot proposed in 2017 to approximately 54,000.

The Board recently approved the hospital building’s space program for the reduced square footage, and architects are now working with hospital staff to move forward with the schematic design phase.

The new building will have 21 private inpatient beds instead of 25 (private and semi-private) in the current hospital. The 21 beds will include nine medical/surgical/OB beds and 10 Sanctuary (addiction recovery unit) beds, and two conversion beds that can be used for either service. There will also be two oversized Operating Rooms suites and a procedure room, along with two observation beds. The Emergency Department, which will be larger than what is in the current building, will have seven rooms as well as space for triage.

The Business Office, Emergency Medical Services and Clinic are not included in the square footage of the new hospital building, but the LCCHC Board and Administration are exploring options for bringing those services to the Apple Blossom campus as soon as possible, said Signorelli.

The new hospital building will provide sufficient services and capacity for the next five plus years, with growth areas to be pre-designed for expansion when needed, said Steve Patonai, CEO.

Updated Timeline

Board approves new hospital building space program

At the regular Board meeting April 23, 2019, the Board approved the new hospital building’s space program for approximately 54,000 square feet, projected to cost just below the $44.5 million budgeted amount. The Board also gave approval for the district to proceed to the building’s schematic design phase.

The new hospital building will provide sufficient services and volumes for the next five plus years, with growth areas to be designed for expansion when needed. The building will include a total of 21 hospital beds (to include nine medical/surgical/OB beds, 10 Sanctuary beds, and two conversion beds that can be used for either department), two large operating room suites and a procedure room. There will be seven emergency department rooms and triage, as well as all required and anticipated outpatient and ancillary services for future growth, said Steve Patonai, LCCHC CEO. The clinic will be located on the hospital campus in the future.

The Board will hold a District Forum for the Hospital on Wednesday, May 8 at the Lake Chelan Senior Center from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Board members will give presentations and answer public questions at the meeting.

District Forum on the Hospital

The LCCHC Board of Commissioners voted at their regular March 26 Board meeting to hold a District Forum on the Hospital Wednesday, May 8 at the Lake Chelan Senior Center at 5:30 PM to share their vision and and answer public questions. The Board scheduled an open workshop meeting on April 16 from 4:30 – 6:30 PM to prepare for the District Forum.

Jane Jedwabny, 2018 Caregiver of the Year

Congratulations to Jane Jedwabny, 2018 Caregiver of the Year. Each year, employees at Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) nominate and vote for four caregivers of the quarter. In 2018, the four recipients were Jose Sausedo, surgical technician, Valerie Rife, Sanctuary intake coordinator, Brad Hankins, clinic administrator, and Jane Jedwabny, Sanctuary director.

At the end of the year, employees vote again to choose the annual winner from the four quarter winners. This year’s winner was Jane Jedwabny. Jane is the director of Sanctuary at the Lake, LCCHC’s dual-diagnosis chemical dependency unit.

Local emergency medicine, healthcare providers honored at annual EMS awards banquet

Chelan, WA –  Saving lives when seconds count is all in a day’s work for Lake Chelan Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services caregivers. The team’s hard work and dedication to the community was celebrated at the annual EMS banquet Feb. 2 at the Chelan Senior Center. “Tonight we celebrate where we have been and get excited about where we are going,” said EMS director Ray Eickmeyer.

Local EMS service started in 1972, after the spouse of Great Griffith, Chelan, was killed a tragic motor vehicle accident. Griffith and a group of volunteers started EMS classes and helped form the Lake Chelan Valley Ambulance system, which is now part of the local hospital.

In 2018, LCCHC EMS answered a record number of response calls, almost 1,500, said Eickmeyer. “We have become a better team,” he continued, “more compassionate and community focused. The proof? We have received more thank you letters and phone calls of appreciation than in the last five years combined.”

Brad Hankins, RN, Lake Chelan Clinic administrator, and Jill Thompson, RN, received the 2018 Edward J. Armbruster Award for their foresight and vision to make a healthier community, from integrated behavior / mental health to the soon-to-be-launched community paramedicine program. Only one percent of the nation has access to this type of service, explained Eickmeyer. Hankins was one of the early EMTs in the valley and has worked in local healthcare for almost 30 years.

Steve Patonai, LCCHC CEO, awarded the 2018 Administrator’s Award to Raynor Baker for constant dedication and service. Raynor has been a fulltime employee for 11 years, taking on the major role of CPR program coordinator. Raynor is a senior EMT instructor and has served with great passion and performance, said Eickmeyer.

The Director’s Award for sacrifices above and beyond the call of duty was presented to Dr. Lance Jobe. Jobe has served over 20 years, said Eickmeyer, and has unified over 23 different organizations in Chelan and Douglas counties to regionally provide the best out-of-hospital cardiac arrest rates in the country.

Rachel McCall was chosen by her EMS peers and recognized as the 2018 Personnel of the Year. McCall was described as “the hardest worker with the best attitude,” “the most encouraging co-worker I know,” “team player,” and “outstanding addition to the team.”

Eleven providers received save pins for CPR saves of patients. Five caregivers were recognized for delivering babies. Rachel McCall, Mark Schram, Greg Moser and Brandon Fogelson were recognized with first-year pins, Jared Eygabroad received his 10-year pin, and James Ashmore, Rinita Cook, Christina Eickmeyer and Ken Young earned 20-year pins. Mark Courtney of Stehekin was honored for 34 years of service as an EMT, most often as a volunteer. He is the only EMT in Stehekin.

At the conclusion of the banquet, Eickmeyer looked to the future. The ambulance organization was born out a need for rescue, and while there is still that need in 2019, he said, there is also a need for prevention and proactivity. “My vision is to show the community that they can have an EMS system that responds to them in a new, meaningful way, both as rescuers and as partners in prevention.”

Quoting Margaret Mead, he continued, “‘Never doubt that a small group of committed, thoughtful people can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.’”

Local homeowners will pay less for hospital bonds than projected

A recent drop in interest rates means tax savings for local homeowners, who will pay approximately 33 cents per thousand for 25 years on the community’s new hospital building project. This is both a lower amount and a shorter time period than anticipated.

When the capital bond measure was passed by almost 65 percent in 2017, the hospital district projected voters would pay a rate of 38 cents per thousand for 30 years. A 4.55 percent interest rate secured by the District in December allows the hospital to pass savings on to taxpayers.

“If a home is valued at $300,000, the owner will pay just under $100 a year,” explained Jim Nelson, Bond Underwriter, from D.A. Davidson, at December’s Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) Board meeting. Taxpayers will begin paying for the project in 2019.

“We are very pleased to have the bonds for our new hospital come in under the originally projected amount,” said Mary Signorelli, LCCHC Board Chair. “It was the Board’s priority to minimize cost to the taxpayers as much as possible on this project, and this is very good news for property owners in our Hospital District.”

In April 2017, local voters voted to approve the bond measure for $20 million to help fund construction of the new hospital facility. The remaining project costs will be funded by LCCHC, with loans from USDA, grants and the Lake Chelan Health & Wellness Foundation.

The LCCHC Board anticipates breaking ground on the new building in fall of 2019, with occupancy in 2021. It will be built on hospital-owned property at Chelan Apple Blossom Drive, near Wal-Mart, across from Columbia Valley Community Health, and have private patient rooms, increased outpatient capacity and a larger Emergency Department. It will also have space for rehabilitative therapy, laboratory and radiology, as well as an expanded surgery department and a helicopter pad for emergency transfers.

LCCHC Board writes letter to the community

The Board of the Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) approved a Letter to the Lake Chelan Community at their regular Board meeting on December 20, 2018. See content below. Click here for a .pdf version.

Dear Lake Chelan community,

Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics (LCCHC) Board of Commissioners has been working on your behalf on three major activities which will impact health care in our community for many years to come.  These are to:

1)  enhance the health and wellness of residents and visitors,

  2)  improve quality of care to the highest standards, and

  3)  lower health care costs.

We want you to know what we are focused on, and how you can help.

What is the Board doing to prepare for our healthcare future? Our LCCHC Board and key hospital and clinic leaders met for two days in August to develop a Ten Year Vision for LCCHC. This is the most far-reaching strategic plan we have ever developed. It will be updated every year as new information emerges, but we already know enough about the rapidly-changing U.S. health care system to be able to predict numerous local effects.  Many of you are already experiencing these changes. The Board’s Ten Year Vision will safeguard LCCHC’s ability to financially thrive in the years ahead and ensure high-care quality to our community.

LCCHC is now focused on six key areas of Performance Excellence in our Vision: People, Service, Quality & Safety, Growth & Innovation, Finance, and Community.  Excellence in all six of these areas are interrelated and necessary to be successful long-term.  LCCHC employees in all areas are working to achieve measurable results. Progress will be monitored to assure that you have satisfying experiences each and every time you encounter LCCHC.

When will the Board hire a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO)? For the last 7 months, the Board has worked with B.E. Smith, a national recruitment firm, to help identify highly-skilled CEO candidates who would love to work in a small but growing rural community. We have taken the necessary time to make sure that the CEO will be the best match to help LCCHC achieve our vision and become a respected leader in our community. Our standards are high, because community expectations are high. All candidates interviewed were very qualified to fill the CEO position but did not “fit” our overall needs.

The Board has offered the CEO position to our Interim CEO, Steve Patonai. During his tenure at LCCHC we have directed Steve to make the necessary improvements to move LCCHC thoughtfully and strategically towards our Vision. As the new CEO Steve will continue these improvements. During this time of significant challenges and changes, we especially appreciate LCCHC leaders and employees working cooperatively, together, in pursuit of excellence on all levels of our organization. The Board is very confident and supportive of the direction in which we are headed under the leadership of Steve Patonai.  He is the best fit for our organization to guide us to the level needed for achievement of our goals and Vision.

When will the Board break ground for the new Health Care Facility? Thanks to the community-approved local levy in 2017 and the USDA guaranteed loan in October 2018, funding is now in place. We must now refine and finalize a detailed building plan to be sure that every detail and space will support the health needs of our community (the new Ten Year Vision).  We anticipate breaking ground in the Fall of 2019 with construction being completed in early 2021. The Board’s goal is to provide a facility built within the $44.5 million budget, in the right size and design to support innovation of the highest quality experience for all, long into the future.

What does the Board need from the community in order to succeed?  LCCHC is your local health care organization for emergency and outpatient medical services, primary and wellness care, specialty care, and a long list of health and education services. We need your support as we move forward.  Your vision of community health care needs is very important to the Board.  The merging of the Community Vision with the Board’s Ten Year Vision will provide  quality health care for everyone in the community  now and in the future. Feedback about your health care experiences will help us to continuously improve care. Please let us know how the Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Clinics can best serve you.

For a healthy Chelan Valley,

Board of Commissioners: Mary Signorelli, Phyllis Gleasman, Fred Miller, Jordana LaPorte, Mary Murphy

 

Hospital Board chooses interim Steve Patonai as permanent CEO

The Board of Directors at Lake Chelan Community Hospital & Clinics (LCCHC) voted unanimously to approve a resolution naming interim CEO Steve Patonai as the organization’s permanent CEO at their regular Board meeting Dec. 20.

According to an official statement written by the Board, “For the last 7 months, the Board has worked with B.E. Smith, a national recruitment firm, to help identify highly-skilled CEO candidates who would love to work in a small but growing rural community. We have taken the necessary time to make sure that the CEO will be the best match to help LCCHC achieve our vision and become a respected leader in our community. Our standards are high, because community expectations are high. All candidates interviewed were very qualified to fill the CEO position but did not “fit” our overall needs.

“The Board has offered the CEO position to our Interim CEO, Steve Patonai. During his tenure at LCCHC we have directed Steve to make the necessary improvements to move LCCHC thoughtfully and strategically towards our Vision. As the new CEO Steve will continue these improvements. During this time of significant challenges and changes, we especially appreciate LCCHC leaders and employees working cooperatively, together, in pursuit of excellence on all levels of our organization. The Board is very confident and supportive of the direction in which we are headed under the leadership of Steve Patonai. He is the best fit for our organization to guide us to the level needed for achievement of our goals and Vision.”