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For the residents of Owen County, receiving reliable health care locally just keeps getting easier.
Last summer, New Horizons Health Systems opened a new state-of-the-art doctor’s clinic on Hwy. 127, just north of Owenton. Last week, the health care group received a $250,000 earmark appropriation in the federal budget for the purchase of a new magnetic resonance imaging machine.
“This was a team effort by the fiscal court, the city council and the hospital to communicate the needs of the community and to request the funds needed to improve health care,” U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, Ky-04, during the presentation ceremony Jan. 25.
Owenton Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier and Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith were on hand for the presentation of the funds. Also on hand was Mark Cleveland, chairman of the board of directors of the New Horizons Medical Foundation.
Davis said it was the collaboration of all these parties that made it possible to get the appropriation through Congress.
“Now, Milkweed, don’t be taking this check to the bank and thinking you’ll be getting the funds from it,” Davis joked of the oversize check he handed the mayor during the ceremony. In addition to city mayor, Wotier serves as the hospital chaplain and serves on the board of directors for the hospital.
Davis said he is delighted to see tax dollars returned to the community from which they are paid.
“It’s good to bring back home some of the taxes paid in a community,” Davis said. “I can support bringing back the tax dollars paid by residents for these kinds of projects.”
Bernie Poe, administrator of New Horizons Health Systems, said the funds and the MRI machine can only mean an increase and improvement in services to the residents of Owen County.
“The implementation of the MRI system will improve the quality of health care and services that we can provide to the community,” he said.
The hospital originally requested $1 million for the project. The remainder of the funds will need to be acquired through other funding sources.
“We will continue to seek and apply for these funds,” Poe said.
Currently, residents who require an MRI to assess their health care needs must travel to northern Kentucky, Louisville or Lexington or wait for the mobile MRI unit to arrive.
With the appropriation presented at the hospital last week in front of employees, members of the health systems board and the New Horizons Medical Foundation board, local hospital employees will soon be able to administer the tests right here in Owenton.
In the official request for the funds, Poe said having patients go to other communities for services can result in a disruption in the continuity of their care and delay a diagnosis.
Poe, who was visiting legislators in Washington at the time of the presentation, said it had been five years since the hospital had received this type of funding from the federal government.
“The process to secure funding is very long and requires efforts on a yearly basis,” Poe said, adding that he visits the nation’s capital at least once — and sometimes twice — a year to make the hospital’s presence and its requests known to lawmakers. “Each year we submit an application for funding. In 2004, we were successful in obtaining funding for a computerized financial system. Although we have applied every year, it has been five years since we last received any funding.”
Davis explained that the money requested by the hospital was earmarked in the fiscal 2007 federal budget, but there were no earmarked appropriations approved that year, meaning the hospital did not get the funds.
“Bernie and Milkweed have been shameless in their efforts to get these funds,” Davis said laughing.
Poe also credited the New Horizons Medical Foundation with its help in securing the funding. Last year, the foundation contributed $36,000 to help pay the expenses of Strategic Health Care, an advocacy firm specializing in health care. The firm assisted with grant submission and the request application as well as with routine updates of health care developments in Congress, Poe said.
New Horizons Medical Foundation Chair Mark Cleveland said the foundation’s board members feel responsible for helping the hospital continue to upgrade its equipment and improve services to the community.
“We’re a resource for the hospital,” Cleveland said. “The hospital board establishes priorities and the foundation helps make those priorities come true. The hospital focuses on the physical wellness of the patient and the foundation supports the hospital in that endeavor.”
The foundation was formed in 2003 to support the hospital operations and support community health care. Over the years, the foundation has provided funds for drug education, the EMS service, the purchase of an EKG machine and has provided short-term loans to the hospital, all of which have been or are being repaid by the hospital.
This method of providing funding for the hospital is necessary because it is a not-for-profit rural health care clinic and can only receive funding after it has billed a client for services. While there are no funds to purchase an MRI upfront, after one is in place, the hospital will generate revenue from the machine when patients utilize the equipment.
Poe said the hospital has come a long way since late 2001 when New Horizons Health Systems took over the facility. The hospital was set for foreclosure if the local group had not been able to complete the buy-out of the facility.
Since that time, the hospital directors have worked diligently to improve and increase health care services in the community — from adding new equipment to building a new doctor’s office.