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April 15, 2022

Trone, Boucot, discuss rural health care challenges

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Teresa McMinn

OAKLAND, Md. — Successful leaders understand that acknowledgment of a problem is the first step to solving it, U.S. Rep. David Trone said Thursday.

He was at Garrett Regional Medical Center to meet with the hospital system’s leadership and discuss staff needs to support rural health care.

The stop was part of Trone’s visits to Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties Wednesday and Thursday to meet with local leaders about issues affecting Western Maryland communities, including access to health care, substance use disorder treatment and recovery, and job training programs.

He talked of GRMC’s “outrageously impressive” initiatives, and congratulated the hospital system for its recent accolades.

For the second year in a row, GRMC was on the National Rural Health Association’s list of Top 20 Rural and Community Hospital in the country.

“It’s all about leadership,” Trone said.

Mark Boucot serves as president and CEO of GRMC — a 55-bed acute care hospital in Oakland, and Potomac Valley Hospital — a critical access hospital located in Keyser, West Virginia.

GRMC is clinically affiliated with the West Virginia University Health System, and PVH is a member hospital of the West Virginia University Health System.

Boucot was recently named a Top Rural Hospital CEO to Know by Becker’s Hospital Review, a leading health care publication.

He listed some of the statistics that helped earn GRMC’s latest award, which includes having the lowest readmission rate in Maryland for the past four years, consistently high scores for reducing patient complications, and preventing surgical site infections.

Boucot credited his staff and “pretty significant work” for GRMC’s successes.

“They’re all completely engaged,” he said. “We have an unbelievable track record.”

Community

GRMC is “a Garrett County success story,” Trone said and added that the greater community including county commissioners, local college and the hospital system worked together and acknowledged the area’s addiction problems.

“That’s leadership in admitting that,” he said. “Garrett has stepped up.”

Boucot said GRMC’s approach to health care is to treat every patient like a relative.

“We have a common goal here … we take care of patients like (they’re) family,” he said. “We’re here to make a difference (and help) heal people.”

Boucot said Trone and other legislators helped GRMC secure grants that have supported services including cancer care, behavioral health medicine and addictions treatment.

Challenges

Trone talked of medical staff shortages, including the need for more behavioral, addiction, and mental health workers — especially in rural areas across country — which the pandemic compounded.

“The pay is lower,” he said of workers in those fields.

Trone also talked of the need for educational loan forgiveness for behavioral and mental health professionals.

Funding remains challenging for the hospital system, Boucot said.

“We are completely upside down financially,” he said and added that GRMC relies on Maryland for help. “We spent down our reserves (and are) dependent on the state to correct that.”

Boucot said he’s optimistic the financial problems will be solved, and added that he anticipates area hospital systems will work together, perhaps to apply for joint grants.

Despite challenges caused by COVID-19, GRMC has kept its doors open, he said.

“This hospital never went on diversion,” Boucot said. “You can’t put a price on someone’s life.”