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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Dr. Matthew Stinson

Executive Vice President, Jordan Valley Community Health Center

Posted online

Jordan Valley has two construction projects in the works: revamping a former grocery store into an Ambulatory Surgery Center in Springfield and building a new clinic in Republic. What will the expansions enable you to do?
We were fortunate to purchase the old Price Cutter building when we did. Because of COVID, it became an immunization hub. We’re over 100,000 vaccinations. And we did more than 500 monoclonal antibody infusions with the state, partnering with Cox and Mercy. It’s what the community needed. We had to pause the construction to allow that to happen. Phase I is the Ambulatory Surgery Center, which is going to be focused on pediatrics and women’s health, so oral surgery and contraception, tubal ligations and other GYN-related surgeries that can be done on an outpatient basis. We get referrals from 150 miles away for oral health for kids.  And so having pediatric dentists that can put them to sleep with the anesthesia and do that work when we do six cases a day, five days a week right now, this will give us more space to grow. Republic is growing. There is a significant population there that is low income that we need to make sure we take care of.

CoxHealth and Mercy now require COVID-19 vaccines for employees. Do you anticipate Jordan Valley will make a similar mandate?
At the end of July, we basically said internally that we were not going to hire anyone who wasn’t willing to get the vaccine. And we were going to not allow promotions or transfers for people who were unwilling to get the vaccine. We also put up a ($500) sum toward everyone in the organization who was willing to get it. Whether or not we make a mandate for all employees, everyone knows that it’s a priority to us. The culture we live in, southwest Missouri, “mandate” means “I won’t do it.” We want people to know it’s that important to us that we’re going to put all our time, money and resources into it, but I also don’t want to turn off everyone who just hates the word mandate.

What percentage of employees are vaccinated?
We’re at 84.4%. We were at 50% in the beginning of June. Why is that? We didn’t put the same effort into vaccinating our employees as we did the community. We just kind of said from this day forward, we’re going to put the same effort into our employees.

At the start of the pandemic, Jordan Valley laid off about 100 workers. Have operations come back to pre-pandemic levels, and have your staff numbers rebounded?
Almost half of our employees are dental, and so when the (American Dental Association) comes out and says: You should suspend all care, except for what’s considered emergency –  I mean, that’s a large chunk of what we do – that’s where (furloughs) came from. It was because they said you can’t do that kind of care, which I think was a little troubling because what happened is you had all these dental offices shut down and we were doing hundreds of emergency visits a day in all of our clinics total because there was no one else doing dental care. We are back to where our employment was pre-COVID. We’ll probably add, if the workforce is there, somewhere around 80 to 100 people in the next year because the needs are so great.

Last month, a judge ordered voter-approved Medicaid expansion to proceed after the state government attempted to deny it. This could extend eligibility to 231,000 people. How will that affect Jordan Valley’s patient population?
Just because the state has turned on Medicaid expansion doesn’t mean that we’re going to see an influx of people who utilize health care. There’ll be some because they’ve been waiting for it. But a large chunk of them don’t know how to use the health care system. The No. 1 challenge you’re going to see with Medicaid expansion is enrollment. The enrollment process isn’t the simplest in the world. We have to help them. And then we have to do the hard work of how do we teach people how to value preventative care when a year ago we told them all of that’s not essential. That’s a mixed message we’ve sent people for the last year and a half. We already have an [education] team put together. Our goal is when someone has an appointment, the second question, if they don’t already have insurance, is, “Have you heard about Medicaid expansion and are you eligible?” We internally have realized that we have 8,000-10,000 people who are on our sliding-scale system who should be active for Medicaid. Getting 10,000 people enrolled in Medicaid when an application takes an hour to do, that’s 10,000 hours. You can do the math and see how that translates to 230,000 people.

Dr. Matthew Stinson can be reached at mstinson@jordanvalley.org

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