07/27/09 — WATCH van set to return to county July 31

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WATCH van set to return to county July 31

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 27, 2009 2:23 PM

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News-Argus file photo

Family Nurse Practitioner Kathy Johnson checks Steven Mitchell's heart at the WATCH van in this 2006 photo. Ms. Johnson left the area in 2006, and returns next month to work with the WATCH clinic at the YMCA.

Two familiar facets of WATCH will be back in Wayne County next month -- the mobile clinic and nurse practitioner Kathy Johnson.

Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, or WATCH, obtained a $150,000 grant from the state to revamp the interior of the mobile van. Since May 1, it has been in Ohio.

The restoration project was to have been completed by June 30, but was delayed. Sissy Lee-Elmore, WATCH executive director, told the board of directors Wednesday it is expected to be back July 31.

In the interim, WATCH has seen patients at the Family YMCA and through a walk-in clinic at its office adjacent to the hospital grounds.

Once the van returns, Mrs. Lee-Elmore said, the staff will spend time stocking shelves and replacing supplies and medical records in preparation of getting the unit back on the road.

She praised the staff at the YMCA for accommodating the program in recent months.

"It has been fabulous out at the Y, seeing patients and doing the labs there," she said.

With the return of Ms. Johnson, that location will continue, she said, as a satellite office for WATCH.

"Kathy starts Aug. 3, seeing patients Aug. 10. She will be running the clinic at the Y," Mrs. Lee-Elmore explained.

The move is expected to enhance what the program does, serving uninsured and underinsured residents of Wayne County.

"We anticipate increasing productivity by 60 percent," Mrs. Lee-Elmore said. "Kathy will work 25 to 32 hours a week. Right now, the wait time is six weeks for appointments. Our goal is to get that down to two to three days' wait."

Ms. Johnson was the third person hired to work in the WATCH program, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2008. She was a staple on the van for six years, before leaving in 2006 to care for her mother, who is now 94 and lives in a nursing home.

At the time of her departure, Ms. Johnson said, "We don't need another truck; we need another staff. ... We could just add to the route and the hours, the need is out there."

That remains true, and her return will allow the program to expand.

Ann King, lead family nurse practitioner on the mobile unit since Febuary 2008, will continue in that role.

It's an exciting time for WATCH, several board members said.

"We'll be running two programs when Kathy comes back," board member Murray Porter said.

That means continuing to secure grants and obtain good financing as the program moves forward, he added.

"Thank goodness for the city, thank goodness for the county, for all the people participating in our golf tournament, for Bill Paugh and Wayne Memorial Hospital," he said. "It takes it all, and we can't let up. We're doing here what President Obama and people in Congress are talking about every day. We've got our own plan going.

"When you look at 50,000-some patient visits, we're plugging our little hole right now. We need to keep our fingers crossed and keep the financial stuff going."

Dean Lee, president and chief executive officer of 3HC, commended them for using resources well.

"The key is really defining the need. We're faced with the same challenges in our business, Home, Health and Hospice," he said. "What's refreshing, particularly about this county, is Wayne County rises to the occasion of meeting needs, not so much wants, but needs."

"It's a good example of a community taking care of its own," added board member Harold Brashear, also chairman of the hospital's board of trustees.

Paugh, president and CEO of Wayne Memorial Hospital, agreed that WATCH is a program the community should be proud to have.

"We really do have a model that's worth taking a look at and worth replicating," he said. "Finding the resources to support it is an unending scramble. We continue to get people to come from all over to see what we're doing."

When contacted in Iowa, Ms. Johnson said she is looking forward to returning to the familiar role.

"I'm just so thrilled to be coming back," she said. "I have missed the patients, I have missed the staff. I know Ann has been doing a wonderful job, and it will be wonderful to work with her."