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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1616

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we focus on health care and see how closely Oklahomans’ health and well-being is tied to our state’s economy.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1616

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1616

For more information visit these links:

Roger Mills Memorial Hospital

Gov. Mary Fallin

Oklahoma Hospital Association

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

OSU Center for Health Sciences

Metro Technology Centers

Northeast Technology Center


Show Details

Show 1616: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: April 17, 2016



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Oklahoma has a lot to be proud of -- but the state of our health? Well, it’s not one of them. By most every measure, Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in the state of our health. Austin Moore starts us off today in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, where he examines the struggles of keeping a small rural hospital open. We take a closer look at the connection between health care policy and health care outcomes.

Doug Cox: The political rhetoric has tended to put blinders on people when it comes to health care.

Rob: Blane Singletary visits the unhealthiest area in the entire state. And our Courtney Maye introduces us to some students playing doctor for all the right reasons. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company; with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, it’s becoming painfully obvious just how closely the health and well-being of Oklahomans is tied to our state’s economy. Dipping energy prices, combined with a series of tax cuts and corporate tax breaks, have led to a revenue failure at the state Capitol that threatens the availability of health care for thousands of Oklahomans. Many of these are our states’ most vulnerable, from parents with small children on Medicaid to those in the twilight of life in our nursing homes. But then there are those who just live outside the city lights. In the past few months, two of Oklahoma’s rural hospitals have shut their doors, while many others are financially vulnerable. We begin today in far western Oklahoma, where the health of one rural hospital is inextricably tied to the health of the oil patch.

Austin Moore: Sitting snug against Oklahoma’s western border, Roger Mills County has a small, but aging population, making health care a looming challenge.

Randy O’Neal: You are looking at a two and a half hour drive to go to Oklahoma City to any major, Integris or Mercy, or any major hospital.

Austin: That leaves the community heavily reliant on their local hospital.

Cindy Duncan: Roger Mills Memorial Hospital is a 15-bed, critical access hospital. We serve Roger Mills County, close to 4,000 people, a little less than a thousand in Cheyenne, the location of the hospital.

Austin: The impact of rising costs and changing regulation seems amplified in small hospitals like this, something CEO Cindy Duncan is all too aware of.

Duncan: With small rural hospitals, they’ve been ignored. And now all of a sudden there is, you know, it seems like, 10 a month closing.

Austin: But in recent years, the hospital has had a dynamic duo in its corner that made a huge difference: an oil and gas boom and the county’s penny and a half sales tax with 60 percent of that directed to the hospital.

O’Neal: With the sales tax and the oil and gas industry, we have been fortunate enough to have a little extra money, and we just completed a remodel on the hospital. And it was the first one that has been done in like 40-some-odd years. It was money well spent, and we felt like that we had at the time. And, you’ve got, eventually, you have to upgrade and take care of your property, or you get so far behind you never can catch up.

Duncan: We are fortunate in the sense that oil and gas has given us the ability to have some time to try to figure out what do we do to be successful without the oil and gas. Because it will go away, as we are seeing, so those really successful years have given us an opportunity to see the success for this facility in the future.

Austin: One way this hospital is bracing for that future is with a major upgrade in the radiology department.

O’Neal: Being a small hospital, a small, rural hospital, there are certain limitations to what we can do. But we felt like a CAT scan was something that could be utilized by the people here and help with the prescreening and specialty process. It’s as good as anybody’s in the state of Oklahoma. It’s a 64-slice. It’s as good as you can get. And there is no need for other scans once you have been scanned here.

Phillip Thomas: We can do Q-CTs, which is bone densities.

Austin: Phillip Thomas is the head of radiology for Roger Mills Memorial.

Phillip Thomas: We had some cases that we actually found some cancers during our heart scans that we provided.

Austin: The hospital began seeking out these common maladies by offering a special on chest scans, making preventative care no more wallet-pinching than dinner and movie.

Duncan: We set the screenings up. They were around $50 each. Anyone can get them. We didn’t have a lot of participation in the beginning. We had a few people, identified some issues. Those people ended up seeing a specialist, having to have procedures. And then there was an influx of people, standing room only in the hallways.

Thomas: When our program had kind of taken wings, I mean, we were doing between 12 and 15 people a day.

Austin: No small number for a town this size. In fact, within a few weeks, over 200 county residents had been checked in that first screening. With multiple cases of heart disease and cancer found before they became a crisis.

Charlene Wilson: I told my husband that we needed to go do that.

Austin: Charlene Wilson works as a clerk at Cheyenne’s only drug store.

Wilson: And they did the scan, and the next day they called me and told me that I needed to be in Dr. John Eubank’s office that morning. And I said, “I don’t have an appointment.” And they said, “Yes. You do.” They had found a tumor on the outside of my lung. I wasn’t sick. I had had a few pains in my chest, but I didn’t think anything about it. I thought it was just my age. They got me right in, in the city. They removed all they could remove. There is still a piece in there that they cannot remove. They have to keep an eye on it because even though it was benign, it still could grow.

Austin: This experience has made Charlene a true believer in preventative medicine.

Wilson It tells your doctor and it tells you a lot, even if you are healthy.

Beckner: The people that we have treated here that have had those procedures are now living healthy lives, maybe still being monitored. But they are leading healthy lives. And it could have been so the other direction.

Rob: Joining me now is our Austin Moore. Well, Austin, by all appearances this is a hospital that has been doing everything right, but is still being threatened by the downturn in energy prices.

Austin: Absolutely, Rob. This board has been very forward-thinking. Aside from the CT machine, they’re looking at telemedicine -- anything they can do to help people in the community stay in the community. However, if you look at the sales tax receipts in the county and what the hospital receives, from the height of the oil boom to now, it’s about an 80 percent drop.

Rob: Now, you grew up in that part of the state, how does your family handle health care?

Austin: Absolutely. Well, my folks are still there as well as my grandmother, and while they’re all still getting around, they’re not spring chickens anymore. And so a couple times a month they load up, they go to Oklahoma City to meet with specialists. And you have to consider, if it’s an early morning appointment or late enough in the afternoon, you’re adding on a hotel cost, you’re adding on meals there in the city, as well as transportation and gas.

Rob: Hmm, hadn’t thought of that. Well, certainly an interesting dynamic. Thank you so much, Austin.

Austin: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, a little later in our show, we travel to the complete other side of the state to see how nursing students at the local tech center in Kansas, Oklahoma, are helping their community while still in school. But when we return we look at new push from the Oklahoma Hospital Association to bolster Insure Oklahoma.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: When Gov. Mary Fallin rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid under the president’s Affordable Care Act, she said the plan would cost the state millions over the next decade. But the Oklahoma Hospital Association, or OHA, says taking that same money, but for a similar purpose, would actually save millions.

Male voice: Oklahoma is in trouble.

The OHA unveiled an initiative called “Make O-K Better,” an effort to broaden health care coverage through Insure Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is bleeding millions in tax dollars. Instead of helping workers here get health insurance, that money funds health care in other states. If this continues, doctors may leave the state, more Oklahoma hospitals may close, and many hard-working Oklahomans will lose access to medical care. But together, we can erase that grim outlook. Enter Insure Oklahoma.

Rob McClendon: Now, this video, along with another, have been making the rounds on social media to swell support for state lawmakers to reverse course and accept the health care dollars offered under Obamacare. And the OHA’s latest push is with rural residents.

Female voice: Rural Oklahoma, we’re the backbone of our state, of any state, and people don’t realize that. A lot of times, you know, we just kind of get looked over because we’re small. We need help.

[dogs barking—music]

A hospital is like this center point of a community, sort of like the school. It’s a place that’s always there. Twenty-four/seven, that hospital is open. It’s receiving people, it’s taking care of people.

Here you’ve only got access to your local hospital. And it really makes a tremendous difference if you have a stroke or heart attack or anything of this nature, that you could get somewhere very quickly. Sometimes a few minutes makes a lot of difference.


I mean it really hurts you pretty deep to think you can lose a hospital. You know a lot of things you could lose and you could get by, but you need the hospital.

It’s devastating. You feel like there’s a big hole. It’s, it’s scary. We’ve got to be proactive in keeping all of our facilities -- education, health care -- open. If aid is available, we need to take it.

Rob McClendon: Well, legislative leaders at the state Capitol are the first to tell you that accepting anything linked to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is probably a nonstarter with their rank and file members, but not all of them. Rep. Doug Cox is a Republican member of the House and an emergency room doctor in Grove, Oklahoma, which places Cox at odds with his own party when it comes to our state’s approach to federal health care reform.

Rob McClendon: Inside these doors at the Integris Hospital in Grove, Oklahoma, emergency room physician Doug Cox has seen it all.

Doug Cox: You know, I’ve seen a dramatic change. First of all, there’s been a huge increase in volume. Secondly, primarily we used to see emergencies, things such as strokes; heart attacks; cuts that needed to be sewn up, sutured; broken bones. It was truly an emergency room. Now, probably 90 percent of what we see in the emergency room is not a true emergency. It’s everything from a toothache to a common cold, 90 percent of which could be handled in a private physician’s office, a family medicine or an internal medicine’s office.

Rob: Why do you think that is?

Cox: Well, I think there’s two reasons. And that’s what kind of keeps me grounded. Working in the ER we deal with real life and real-life situations. And we see people in the emergency room who have a primary care physician. They’ve tried to get into that doctor’s office, but they say, well, our first opening is in three weeks. I think that’s an indication of the physician shortage in Oklahoma; it’s statewide, it’s nationwide, but it’s a little bit worse in Oklahoma than it is in most states. And it’s worse in rural areas such as Delaware County, Grove, Jay, my surrounding area. Now, one thing about the emergency room is we treat all comers. To me it’s comforting, it’s reassuring, it’s what America is about, to know that regardless of your socioeconomic status you’re going to get the same great care in this emergency room whether you’re a millionaire or a pauper. Contrary to popular belief, it is hard-working, taxpaying Oklahomans that can’t afford health care insurance. Unfortunately I see it every day here, a couple of things. No. 1, someone may come in here and they’ve gone to a physician, got treatment, got an appropriate medication, can’t afford to buy the medicine. They don’t have insurance to help them with their pharmacy bill. So it’s a tough situation.

Rob: And oftentimes may find themselves right back in here for expensive care?

Cox: That’s true, and the emergency room is the most expensive place to get care. And I may surprise you by saying this, but as an ER physician, I know it’s not the best place to get care for chronic problems such as high blood pressure, emphysema, because if you come in here 10 times you may see 10 different emergency room physicians. There’s just no continuity of care.

Rob: Oklahoma is one of 19 Republican-led states that declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving roughly 90,000 Oklahomans uninsured that otherwise would qualify in other states.

Cox: It’s going to put a cramp in already cash-strapped, particularly rural, hospitals.

Rob: So is it fair to say that, in this instance, the rhetoric and the heat of the politics have maybe got in the way?

Cox: Well, I think so. I mean especially the argument of hey, we don’t want to take any of those nasty federal dollars. Well, look around, we took them for disaster aid, as we should have. We take them for roads and bridges. We take them for education. If you look at our state budget, a huge chunk of it is made up by federal matching dollars. Those are a return of our dollars that we as hard-working Oklahomans send to the federal government in the form of federal taxes. The program is set up for us to reap some of the benefits of those by returning to Oklahoma. And yet the political rhetoric has tended to put blinders on people when it comes to health care.

Rob McClendon: Now, it's estimated 56 percent of all emergency room visits are potentially avoidable, and that's a waste of about $38 billion annually.

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

Rob McClendon: The United States spends significantly more on health care per capita than any other country in the world. Yet when it comes to life expectancy, we are close to two years below that of other developed nations. And that disconnect between paying more and getting less is especially acute in northeast Oklahoma City. Here is our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: It’s a working lunch at Metro Tech in northeast Oklahoma City. The Lynn Institute for Healthcare Research is presenting their report after years of research into this region’s health care and overall wellness. And the news isn’t good.

Angela Cozby: A lot of the statistics unfortunately are a lot worse than Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, the state and the nation.

Blane: That’s Angela Cozby, director of research and planning at the Lynn Institute. Their study focused on a 20-square-mile area of northeast Oklahoma City, comprising about 22,000 people, mostly African-American. It’s one of the poorest areas in the state, and with it comes a high rate of high-risk health problems. Hypertension, stroke, diabetes and heart attack deaths are above the state and national averages. The area’s obesity rate is at 36 percent, which is higher than the full Oklahoma County rate of 29 percent.

Cozby: We looked at a variety of at-risk populations, but with northeast Oklahoma City, there’s definitely an immediate need when you look at the lack of resources as compared to other ZIP codes within the Oklahoma City boundaries.

Blane: That lack of resources manifests itself in many challenges for the area. For instance, these three ZIP codes only have two grocery stores, meaning access to healthy foods is limited. And despite its close proximity to the Oklahoma Health Center, there’s a lack of access to primary health care.

Cozby: There’s currently one primary care physician outside of the OU Health facility working within northeast Oklahoma City. That’s definitely one of the issues that the Healthy Community Collaborative Northeast Oklahoma City will look at.

Blane: And that’s the other big thing happening today. These 34 community leaders were not invited here by accident. They’ve been hand-picked to form that Healthy Community Collaborative. They come from all different backgrounds, including health care, fitness, education, community services and local government.

Cozby: The Healthy Community Collaborative Northeast Oklahoma City will continue to meet. And what they’ll do is, they’ll use the Lynn Lifestyle Summary as a guidebook to set two-year goals with a 10-year overall objective of improving the health.

Blane: Among the people in this roundtable is Oklahoma City Councilman John Pettis. He’s the representative of Ward 7, which is covered by this area, and he says this action can’t happen fast enough.

John Pettis: Why not now? If not now, then when? Oklahoma City is one of the fastest growing cities in America. So why not focus in on the African-American community in Oklahoma City?

Blane: And part of the way he says things can start improving is by getting everyone in this community on the same page.

Pettis: No. 1, fully educating the community about what are the true health issues in northeast Oklahoma City. And the other point is to talk about the collaboration. How can the community collaborate with others? And so I think this is a great opportunity that has been presented for us.

Blane: Part of the solution, at least in the education part of it, could come from right here on the Metro Tech campus. Just across the way from this presentation, dozens of young, hopeful medical professionals are receiving the knowledge and hands-on training that they could use to serve communities just like this one. Alison Beckner teaches radiology.

Alison Beckner: I absolutely loved being an X-ray tech. But when I heard that there was a teaching position opening, I was just too tempted to give that up because I come from a family of teachers.

Blane: Beckner’s passion is passing on her passion to the next generation and getting them ready for the work force.

Beckner: They have to do what’s called a portfolio for me, where they take images that they’ve done, either in the lab or out in the field of real X-rays.

Blane: And local health care facilities can’t wait to sign this program’s graduates in radiology, nursing and other biomedical sciences to the payroll.

Beckner: Once they pass the registry, they can go and work in any hospital, clinical site, doctor’s office anywhere that they would like. We have some that like to stay here in this area, and we have some that do move on to other areas, but we have found a lot of the hospitals in this area love our students. And so being out there and getting to have hands-on experience, they are actually in the hospital with real patients, and it gives the hospitals a chance to get to know our students. And so we kind of get to just slide them right into those open positions when they come about.

Blane: These young budding professionals are a part of what the Lynn Institute calls the biggest asset in northeast Oklahoma City: the residents themselves. With this area’s rich heritage and pride in their community, Metro Tech takes these people in, gives them the tools they need and puts them back out into the community to combat this epidemic here or wherever they may go.

Beckner: What you do is gonna help save lives. So it’s just a very rewarding feeling knowing that you’re doing something that is gonna help someone.

Rob McClendon: Now when we return, we meet some nursing students trying to take the fear out of a doctor’s visit.

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

Rob McClendon: A major factor in America's overreliance on the ER is the lack of access to primary care doctors. And access in Oklahoma, well, it’s ranked near the bottom. One recent publication has Oklahoma 48th in the nation for access to family doctors. And for every family physician, there are a handful nurses. Joining me now is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: In Kansas, Oklahoma, Northeast Technology Center is working to fill the medical care shortage in rural areas, and these nursing students are also giving back to the community while still in school.

Courtney Maye: Mrs. Amos’s second-grade class is here for surgery. Once they check in, it’s off to the operating room. But don’t worry; it’s all just pretend. Jodi Bell is the practical nursing instructor at Northeast Technology Center. She and her students prepped the class for what to expect on this big day.

Jodi Bell: We read them a book about Franklin going to the hospital and talked about what we were going to do in every station today. We want them to feel really comfortable, and we just want them to come up here and have a good time and see that health care can be fun, and it’s not always a scary thing.

Now, this is not going to hurt one bit, OK?

Courtney: Imagination runs through the second-graders’ veins as they decide what type of surgery they are going to have: brain surgery, leg surgery and even toe surgery. And don’t mind the blood; it’s only red marker.

Bell: We have them color on there with a marker so it looks like blood, and the kids just get a kick out of that. They love getting to dress up in all of the hospital garb, the gown and the hats and the booties. It’s just a fun day.

Courtney: And licensed practical nursing student Allison Alvarez says this mock hospital day is a glimpse into pediatric care.

Allison Alvarez: It showed us a lot about patience definitely and that definitely they have a lot of fears that can be different to what an adult would experience, a whole different set of fears and anxieties.

Courtney: To help take the fears away, the children are paired with students in Northeast Technology Center’s health program who act as a parent figure and walk with them through the process. And it’s all fun and games until they go through billing.

Alvarez: A little boy, he was paying with his money and he said, “I don’t want you to take all my money.” And we were explaining to him when you go to the hospital it’s a large bill, and you have to pay.

Courtney: And their lunch money won’t cover this cost.

[Nats: It’s going to be $260 today, Thomas].

But that’s what monopoly money is for. And once the day is wrapped up, the kids realize the hospital isn’t so scary after all.

Alvarez: It definitely made them feel more at ease to think about having to go to a hospital. They were laughing and having a good time, and I think now that if they do have to go it won’t seem as scary.

Rob McClendon: Well, that looks like a win-win. Not only do you have the nursing students going into the medical field, but you’re also possibly sparking some interest with the younger kids.

Courtney Maye: And that is one of the goals of Northeast Technology Center, is to help these students not only realize that going to the doctor isn’t scary, but also possibly gain an interest in the medical field.

Rob McClendon: All right. Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at the value of work and the impact it can have on changing a life.

I just want to do a really good job because I’m so thankful for the opportunity, like because I’m living the dream right now, you know. It feels like I’m Cinderella, like I’m the Cinderella story, but not a princess.

Rob: Plus we check in on the latest Capitol renovations, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.