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Leaders push health care collaboration in Tri-State


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — More than 175 representatives from nearly 40 organizations in the Tri-State gathered in Huntington on Thursday for the start of the Regional Health Summit with the goal of improving the health of the community through collaboration.

Cabell Huntington Hospital President/CEO Kevin Fowler speaks at an event in February. Cabell Huntington Hospital is sponsoring a Regional Health Summit at St. Marks Medical Center.
(Herald-Dispatch file photo)

Kevin Fowler, president and CEO of Cabell Huntington Hospital, which sponsored the summit at St. Mary’s Center for Education, said with all the different changes in health care and the industry, it’s more important now than ever that everyone in health care work more closely together.

“It’s about improving the care and access to all these patients that live in very rural areas, some in more suburban and even urban areas, but how do we do that as a team versus individual entities,” Fowler said.

The 40 organizations taking part in the two-day summit represent 21 counties with a population of approximately 1.1 million, Fowler said.

Dr. Mike Canady, CEO of Holzer Health Systems in Ohio, said it is critical to collaborate with those in the same part of the world.

“We’ve been in the business of taking care of sick people for the last 50 years, and what we really need to be doing is finding a way for people to live better, healthier lives,” Canady said. “I’d like to hear as many things as I can about what other initiatives people are doing in respect to population health management.”

The summit also brought in national speakers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Thursday also kicked off with remarks from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

Manchin said he was committed to fixing health care in this country, but he was troubled by the latest repeal and replacement plan that recently passed the House and is being worked on in the Senate.

“You don’t try to do this type of legislation without bipartisan support,” Manchin said. “The Democrats did it in ’09 and it didn’t work. We know the private market is messed up.”

Manchin said the Republicans are making the same mistake, and at some point, both sides are going to have to be willing to sit down and have a real discussion.

Jenkins, who voted for the Republican health care bill, focused more on the president’s budget and its potential effect on drug funding.

“The president’s proposed budget in many areas will not come to fruition, thankfully,” Jenkins said. “We heard that what was called the ‘skinny budget’ several months ago – deep cuts, singling out (the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas), cuts to community health program, Drug-Free Communities Act, closing down the Office of (National) Drug Control Policy. Did that materialize in the actual budget? No They heard us. But we still have a lot of work to go. They still have proposed cuts that do not sit well with me and will not sit well with our conference.”

Jenkins said they will work in a bipartisan way to fix the budget in a way that supports West Virginia and Appalachia.

The summit continues until 3 p.m. Friday.

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