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Iron County Medical Center may be small but it proved it has a very large heart by winning third place in the "2018 My Hospital, My Community" Contest through AthenaHealth.

The contest challenged rural hospitals and their communities to answer the question, "What does your community hospital mean to you?"

"We were recognized for sharing our story about our passion to serve our community with dignity and respect and to ensure the ongoing survival of our hospital that in turn ensures ongoing access to quality care close to home for the patients in this region," CEO Joshua Gilmore said. "I can’t say enough about how amazing our staff are. They were the ones to find out about the contest and spread the word throughout the organization to encourage participation in the challenge. Being selected for this honor reflects on the passion and perseverance of our entire team here at ICMC."

AthenaHealth representatives Lisa McQueen and Ellie Chase came to the hospital on Nov. 15, National Rural Health Day, to present the $5,000 check to the hospital.

"Everyone in the hospital is just so committed to the community and they talk a lot about how much they value it so much because they almost did lose the hospital," Chase said. "I think they have a great perspective and that came out in a lot of the submissions."

Chase said the contest received almost 700 submissions from more than 150 hospitals across the country but when it came to choosing the winners they were all very excited when Iron County Medical Center's name was chosen.

The hospital submitted a video to the contest and then had a flood of personal submissions from employees, patients and family members.

One of the submissions by Cindy Sadler read, "I have seen many other lives changed, and made better, and I have seen people who have never had health care finally get access to safe, quality care. Our medical center meets a need in our rural community that many do not even realize, but would be devastatingly apparent if it were gone. We at ICMC are family and we treat and care for family and friends, providing compassionate care, close to home. We are the face of rural health care in America."

Chase said what stood out to them the most, other than the amount of written submissions, was the video submitted by the hospital.

"We loved the video. You guys did a really good job," Chase said. "That’s what stood out to us. You guys have a really firm grasp on what this hospital means to your community which is exactly why we created this contest to shine some attention on the work you are doing every day and the importance of these hospitals and the importance of your hospital to your community."

The video submission highlighted the beauty of the community but also explained the need. HR Director Angie Nations voiced the narration which said Iron County is in the top 10 counties of Missouri for opioid abuse and is ranked very high on the list of Missouri counties with serious health issues such as diabetes, COPD, cancer and other chronic illnesses.

"Regardless of the socio-economics of the area, many who desperately need medical care are those that do not have the way nor the means to travel to obtain that care," Nations narrated. "That’s where we come in. We are here to provide quality, compassionate care right here close to homeWe are here when every second matters. To put it bluntly we improve lives, and many times, we save lives."

The video submission can be seen in full at https://youtu.be/oqmvekbf2ws

Chase said the whole point of the contest is to help draw national attention to the importance of rural health and show why it is so important to the communities.

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"I think there are a lot of people who don’t live in rural America that don’t understand what it means to not have a hospital," Chase said. "We wanted to pull all these stories together to not only show off the hospitals in all of these communities but on a national level to pull them all together and say this is what rural health means, this is what community hospitals are doing. It means literally the difference between life and death."

Chase said the contest gives AthenaHealth a way to give back to their clients and they are happy to see that the amount of submissions doubled from last year's contest.

"We had 700 submissions and I promise we read every one of them," Chase said. "Everyone was so emotionally tied to your submissions just because they were so emotional and meaningful."

In his submission Chris Conway described the hospital as a family that is dedicated to providing the best healthcare possible for the people of the community. 

"ICMC has always been dedicated to keeping a great all-around team of caring and hard-working employees who care about their patients and always go that extra step to help them in every possible way," Conway said. "I'm proud to be part of this great team and to serve this community. We all work hard to make a difference in the lives of so many."

Gilmore said the hospital provides substantial care to the region including offering eight different specialties, podiatry, nephrology, pain management, general surgery, gastroenterology, cardiology, rheumatology and endocrinology via telemedicine.

"We see around 6,000 patients a year through our Emergency Room, some of which may not have survived without us being here to care for them," Gilmore said. "Our Family Care Clinic provides primary care to approximately 6,000 patients per year."

Gilmore said the hospital is making positive changes from the bottom to the top and that things are beginning to turn around.

"From our renegotiated insurance contracts to our half cent sales tax that passed last April, which we will begin seeing income from by the end of December, to the ongoing rebuilding of our revenue cycle, all our efforts are coming together in a positive way," Gilmore said.

In Amber Keller's submission she said the hospital has overcome their struggles and has grown from them.

"Our patients are and always will be the main focus for our hospital," Keller said. "What I love the most about ICMC is that we do not just do our jobs, we put our hearts into it as well and that is something that you cannot get just anywhere."

Gilmore said he has seen the difference that compassionate quality care can make in the lives of so many. Going on to say often times it is the smallest acts of kindness, a nurse that pauses to say "hi" to a child in the waiting room, or an ER physician who spends a few extra moments with an elderly COPD patient who lives alone and wants to feel listened to.

"I get to work in a facility that not only saves lives but ensures high quality access to care for our impoverished and under-served region," Gilmore said. "We are the safety net that delivers care in accordance with our values of Trust, Quality, Compassion, Respect, Integrity and Teamwork."

Gilmore said one of the things they are looking to do with the money is to invest some into their swing bed program to continue to help provide transitional care close to home.

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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