Health care, Methodist trauma center focus of forum - October 17, 2014

Courtesy of NWI Times

October 17, 2014 7:00 pm   •   Andrew Steele Times Correspondent

GARY  |  A group of civic leaders, business persons, residents and health care professionals gathered Friday to reflect on a decade of work by the Community Forum, a group dedicated to improving health care in the city, and to consider the future of Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus.

The Community Forum first met 10 years ago in the basement of St. John Baptist Church to discuss concerns about health care for city residents and the sustainability of Methodist Northlake. Friday, a group of more than 50 met at the Genesis Convention Center to hear about the hospital’s designation as a trauma center, the first in Northwest Indiana.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said a recent study confirmed the need for a trauma center in Northwest Indiana, but that there was still work to be done to move beyond the current goal of becoming a Level III trauma center.

“Hopefully we will get above Level III to a Level II or even Level I,” he said. “Don’t let the momentum die.”

Each level requires better and faster access to surgeons and specialists, and requires facilities to handle more critically ill or injured patients. Level I requires that the hospital be a teaching hospital.

The money needed for that isn’t readily available.

Brown said encouraging area residents to use Methodist Northlake could help it financially. The millions of dollars spent by Indiana patients at Chicago hospitals each year was a particular point of concern for him.

“That’s compounding our economic situation,” he said of the money spent across the state line. And, “you could get the very same service at Methodist,” Brown argued.

Brown also said the state needs to find a way to gain the Medicaid funding associated with the federal program’s expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Mike Pence decided not to expand Medicaid, but hopes a new version of the state’s Healthy Indiana Plan – called HIP 2.0 – will gain approval.

Methodist Hospitals CEO Dr. Michael Davenport exressed appreciation for the Community Forum’s efforts and said it has helped the hospital become a better part of the community.

As the hospital works through the final accreditation phase for Level III status, it should focus on higher levels, he said.