Bill Johnson visits new children’s hospital

DISCUSSING HEALTH CARE ISSUES — After a tour of the Akron Children’s Hospital facility in Lisbon, members of the ACH staff and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson talked about some of the issues facing health care in rural parts of the state of Ohio. Johnson sat in the far corner and in a circle were Charlie Solley, director of government relations external affairs; Steve Spaulding, vice president of population health; Shawn Lyden, executive vice president of ACH; JoAnn Stock, senior director of development at Beeghly Campus; Ben Teske, director of regional pediatrics; and Dawn Baker, a field representative with Johnson’s office. -- Deanne Johnson

LISBON — Sitting in the new Akron Children’s Hospital facility in Lisbon, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, got to discuss a few of the concerns of those helping to provide health care for children in the rural area, which includes the long 6th District where Johnson serves.

The new Lisbon Akron Children’s Hospital facility opened on Dec. 15, providing 10 exam rooms for the area’s smallest patients to see a physician for well-care visits and minor injuries and illnesses. It replaced an office down the street where there were three well-used exam rooms.

Akron Children’s Hospital had taken over the previous office space where Dr. Banarikammaje Bhat had a pediatrics office for years. JoAnn Stock, senior director of development with Akron Children’s Hospital said when ACH took over the space in 2016, there were 5,000 patient visits that year. In 2017, the number increased to 6,200. In 2018 at the new facility, there were 760 patient visits in January alone.

The staff from Akron Children’s Hospital who met with Johnson and his staff on Tuesday afternoon talked about the big need for rural health care Akron Children’s Hospital is working to fill in regional facilities across the area. While patients still have to go to the main facilities in Boardman and Akron for bigger emergencies, having doctors and registered nurses available locally makes more sense for the population.

That said, Johnson and the ACH representatives on hand talked about some of the problems in the area of providing medical care, including the large numbers of children in the area who are insured through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Coverage Program, which recently was extended by Congress. Representatives from ACH, including Shawn Lyden, the executive vice president with ACH; Charlie Solley, director of government relations and external affairs with ACH; and Steve Spaulding, vice president of population health; took the opportunity to thank Johnson for working to extend C.H.I.P.

Johnson also talked about his interest in making broadband Internet more accessible throughout the region, which will allow for more telemedicine. Through telemedicine, doctors in a rural area and specialists at a larger hospital or facility can consult in real time as they both look at a patient.

Another discussion was the difficulty of providing enough mental health services for those in the area. With more and more children suffering while families are being destroyed by the opioid crisis and other societal changes such as social media, the doctors and staff at ACH talked about the need to make sure youngsters are provided mental counseling and not just drugs for their problems.

Lyden said even increasing by 10 the number of beds available in Akron for those needing mental inpatient care, the beds are completely full in the facility. He and others in the room talked about the need for funding and coverage to help make certain the mental health needs of children are being met.

One of the practitioners at the ACH facility, Don Buchanan, a certified nurse practitioner, said when he talks to patients and their families he tries to gauge if there are guns not under lock and key in the home and other issues the family may be facing. In some cases, he has found there are not just fatherless homes in the area, but also grandparents and even great grandparents trying to raise children because of the problems families are facing.

Johnson points out it seems the area is outsourcing parenting to electronic devices and others in the community, but none of these things can replace a nuclear family.