Congressional aides visit Johnson County

  From Staff Reports
  With federal funding always a concern at critical access hospitals, Johnson County Health Center (JCHC) Administrator Lisa Heaton took a recent Northeast Tennessee visit by U.S. Congressional aides as an opportunity to send a message.
  "I wanted them to see what the grants and funding they provide actually does here in Johnson County," Heaton said Tuesday as a group of aides and other officials toured JCHC. "I wanted to educate them on how the Medical Rural Hospital Flexibility Program and other grants they are providing impact rural facilities."
  Seven aides representing U.S. Representatives as well as Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bill Frist were in Northeast Tennessee participating in East Tennessee State University's Project Medical Education, a two-day educational program at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine designed to create a more accurate knowledge base among members of Congress, congressional staff, state legislators, and other policymakers. The goal was to educate these key decision-makers about the process of medical education and the need for sustained and sufficient public funding.
  The initiative was developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
  Walking through the halls of JCHC, Heaton talked of the importance of 101 percent cost reimbursement critical care hospitals receive from Medicare. Without the additional money, facilities such as the one in Johnson County would be forced to close.
  "Through the grants you all make sure we get in the community here, we are actually able to pull out of the red," Heaton told the guests.
  Frist aide Allison Winnike said she often works on issues regarding medical funding and being able to see how Tennessee's smallest hospital operates helped her gain a better understanding than from just reading reports and studies.
  "I've never been to Johnson County before and I wanted to see how you treat a community this small," Winnike said. "It's totally different coming here and seeing this hospital compared to just reading about it and the work done here."
  Patra Stephan, legislative assistant to Congressman Jimmy Duncan, said since larger hospitals are able to constantly send their messages to lawmakers through lobbyists, it was important to make the visit to Johnson County and see those whose voices may not be as loud.
  "It's good to get down there and see this," Stephan said. "It's really a different culture, even for those of us from small towns. Once you are in Washington, you become accustomed to looking at things differently, and it's good to come back and see places like this."
  Built in 1998, JCHC is Tennessee's smallest hospital with only two inpatient beds and 80 team members.
  Johnson County Health Center is a proud member of Mountain States Health Alliance. Other MSHA facilities include: Johnson City Medical Center, North Side Hospital, Johnson City Specialty Hospital, James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, all in Washington County; Sycamore Shoals Hospital, Carter County; Indian Path Medical Center and Indian Path Pavilion in Sullivan County; and, Blue Ridge Medical Management Corporation - operating the First Assist Urgent Care centers, ValuCare Clinics and numerous primary care offices.