There is an unresolved debate in our country as to whether health care is a right or a privilege. There is also much uncertainty about whether the impact of the Affordable Care Act, “ObamaCare,” will positively or negatively affect individuals, employers and the health care industry. The metaphorical jury is still out on this question.
However, there is one thing that is certain for the citizens of Scotland County and the surrounding area: since its beginning at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airbase nearly 70 years ago, Scotland Health Care System has been committed to providing our community one of its most essential needs — access to high quality and compassionate health and medical care. This commitment has evolved significantly since our inception. Our initial 24-bed hospital has become the community’s $125 million health care system, providing Scotland County and the surrounding communities with a comprehensive set of medical services, far and above what similar sized communities have. Our 124-bed hospital has state of the art imaging and surgical equipment to complement the highly trained and caring staff. Driving our commitment to clinical excellence is a superb medical staff of nearly 109 physicians and advanced practitioners, 35 of which are part of our Scotland Physician Network. These physicians encompass nearly all primary and secondary specialties including cardiology and most surgical specialties.
Fully accredited by the Joint Commission, we were delighted last year to be recognized by them as being in the top 20 percent of hospitals in the country for our quality and to receive another national award for how thoroughly and quickly we treat the 45,000 patients who visit our Emergency Center annually. We are also proud to be one of the community’s largest employers, with a staff of just under 1,000. Last year, our staff scored in the top 10 percent of the nation for their commitment to patient safety, level of engagement and support.
Scotland Health Care System is a not-for-profit, community-owned organization governed by a Board of Trustees. Our trustees are stewards, who hold one of the community’s finest treasures in trust. We are legally and ethically bound to use the assets of our system to provide whatever services they deem most needed by our community. A great example of this is the start of our Scotland Cancer Treatment Center in 2000. Despite forecasts that this service would be unprofitable, our Board felt that it was their duty to allow patients with cancer to receive comprehensive cancer care without ever leaving their community. And now 13 years later, in a full partnership with Duke Health, we have a comprehensive, well regarded, and financially viable program.
Being community owned does more than direct our trustees; it impacts the services we provide as well as our culture. In addition to our state of the art Emergency Center, we also operate Scotland Urgent Care Center. Sometimes illness and injury strike when physician offices are closed. Scotland Urgent Care Center offers outstanding care during those times enabling our citizens to receive quality care without the expense of an emergency room visit.
How many organizations can boast a workforce that financially supports the philanthropic outreach of their own organization and also gives to the community? That is our culture at Scotland Health Care System. Our employees recognize the importance of being community owned and so when they are asked to give — whether it is time, talent or resources — they say yes! Our employees have been significant contributors to the capital campaigns and fundraisers conducted by our own Scotland Memorial Foundation. And just this year, they gave over $47,000 to Scotland County United Way.
Our health care system is not without its financial challenges. Last year, we experienced $12 million of bad debt and charity care and received $9 million less from Medicare and Medicaid than it cost us to care for those patients. We are one of the most regulated industries in our country, with much time and expense devoted to federal and state rules. Fortunately, our community understands our needs and supports us, mostly through our Scotland Memorial Foundation. Last year our giving community donated over $525,000 to us, allowing us to provide much community education such as our Diabetes, Men’s and Women’s Health Fairs as well as buy medicine and transportation for those that could not afford it.
For nearly 70 years community leaders have understood that having a quality health care system in our community was critical. This commitment continues as we successfully respond to the external changes and challenges underway. Our future involves much more integration and coordination with our physicians and other health care partners. Partnerships have become increasingly critical for us. In addition to Duke for Cancer, we partner with FirstHealth for Cardiology and enjoy numerous benefits from our management agreement with Carolinas Healthcare System, now in its fifth year. We have partnered with Scottish Pines for the operation and transition of the Edwin Morgan Center Skilled Nursing Facility. Though we will constantly transform and improve ourselves, our mission and values will not change. With excellence, integrity, and community accountability, we will remain focused on providing excellent care to each and every patient that our community entrusts to us.
While Scotland Health Care System is focused on the traditional definition of “individual” and community health, we also appreciate our role in the economic health of Laurinburg and Scotland County. Beyond the direct economic impact Scotland Health Care has on the economy by providing jobs, our organization also contributes to the business recruitment process and the focus on our community’s future economic health.
Two key factors for companies looking to relocate are a quality workforce and a quality of life. By delivering the comprehensive and high quality services outlined above, we positively impact both of these key criteria — providing businesses and their employees a value both on the job, and at home. Given our role, we are often “a stop” on the tour companies take through the community (both formally and informally) and work with Scotland County Economic Development in reaching out and helping companies Target Laurinburg/Scotland County. In a recent survey, Presbyterian Homes of NC reported that residents considering Scotia Village also were influenced by the quality health care available to them through Scotland Health Care System. Just as we take great pride in delivering quality healthcare to our citizens, we also take very seriously our role in helping our overall community grow and look forward to our continued role in this effort.
I hope you are proud of your community’s health care system. It is a privilege you have by being a member of this community. I also hope you will play an active role in its future successes by staying informed and involved, using our services when you need them, and letting us know how your system can continue its excellent service to you.
Gregory Wood is president and CEO of Scotland Health Care System.