Back to FirstHealth Magazine Home
In This Issue
Message from the CEO
Past Issues
Request A Hardcopy
FirstHealth of the Carolinas
Community Support
  Print
 

Helping those who need it most

In 2007, the Moore Free Care Clinic provided $1.9 million in service value to the limited-income and uninsured of Moore County. Many of the volunteers who keep that busy place running are FirstHealth of the Carolinas employees and physicians.

“FirstHealth physicians, nurses and clerical help are the backbone of our clinic,” says David Bruton, M.D., one of the founders of the Moore Free Care Clinic.

Former Clinic Director Laura Tremper-Jones agrees. “We have FirstHealth physicians who volunteer, nurses, physical therapists, lab techs, clinical personnel,” she says. “You name it. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

“We have also worked closely with FirstHealth Community Health Services to implement programs that benefit uninsured patients living in Moore County. This team approach has allowed us to ensure topquality care for the uninsured.”

Team-approach programs involving FirstHealth, the Free Care Clinic, Sandhills Community Care Network and local medical offices provide community case management, access to primary and specialty care, and medication assistance to ensure that patients receive the care they need.

FirstHealth has an integrated relationship with the operation that includes free laboratory testing and imaging.

“FirstHealth treats our patients with the same dignity and care that paying patients receive,” says Dr. Bruton. “Our patients who need specialty referral are also seen in their clinics. The Diabetes Self-Management Program and FirstQuit, for smoking cessation, are particularly helpful.”

A private, volunteer-based, nonprofit organization, the Moore Free Care Clinic provides primary, preventive and specialty health care to the growing number of Moore County residents who fall beneath the federal poverty level. Many are employed, but can’t afford health care or health insurance.

Speakers Bureau

A civic club needs someone to speak about time management. A community organization would like to hear about men’s health. A private school is interested in introducing its students to eating colors and nutrition.

During 2007, FirstHealth of the Carolinas’ Speakers Bureau provided speakers for 59 different community programs. The subjects ranged from managing cholesterol to pandemic flu.

The presenters were physicians, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, technicians, health and fitness instructors, and administrators.

Most of these programs are one-time engagements, although some organizations need help with ongoing programming for special interest groups. Since FirstHealth offers the Speakers Bureau as a community benefit, there is no charge to the club or organization.

Support when you need it

In October 1990, just a month after John Krahnert Jr., M.D., performed the first open-heart surgery at Moore Regional Hospital, three former open-heart patients and a nurse started to talk about forming a support group for people who had been through that lifesaving and lifechanging experience.

“Since three individuals who did not know each other contacted me, I realized it was a community need the hospital should fulfill,” says Cheryl Batchelor, then a cardiovascular-thoracic clinical specialist at the hospital.

Batchelor, now executive director of Clinical Operations at Moore Regional, met with the former patients for the first time in January 1991. Shortly afterward, the Zipper Club was born.

So-called because of the zipper-like scar that open-heart surgery leaves on a patient’s chest, the Zipper Club is one of FirstHealth’s oldest and most successful support groups. The group meets monthly in Moore Regional’s Monroe Auditorium and allows participants—patients, families and friends—to share their experiences.

“Since they’ve been through heart surgery themselves,” Batchelor says, “they can provide a special kind of support and reassurance. I’ve seen a lot of empathy.”

Currently, about 20 support groups focusing on a variety of diseases and conditions meet at FirstHealth of the Carolinas hospitals. There is a bariatric group for people who have gone through life-changing weight-loss surgery. Other groups focus on diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, mental illness, stroke and gastrointestinal disorders.

There are also groups that provide post-polio and ostomy support.

Breastfeeding mothers also meet as a group. So do people who are trying to stop smoking or who have recently quit. Both Moore Regional and Montgomery Memorial have Better Breathers groups for people who are dealing with chronic respiratory disease, and there are cancer support groups at both Richmond Memorial and Moore Regional.

All of the support groups are related to the patient education programs at FirstHealth hospitals.

Giving the Gift of Life

In October 1990, just a month after John Krahnert Jr., M.D., performed the first open-heart surgery at Moore Regional Hospital, three former open-heart patients and a nurse started to talk about forming a support group for people who had been through that lifesaving and lifechanging experience.

“Since three individuals who did not know each other contacted me, I realized it was a community need the hospital should fulfill,” says Cheryl Batchelor, then a cardiovascular-thoracic clinical specialist at the hospital.

Batchelor, now executive director of Clinical Operations at Moore Regional, met with the former patients for the first time in January 1991. Shortly afterward, the Zipper Club was born.

So-called because of the zipper-like scar that open-heart surgery leaves on a patient’s chest, the Zipper Club is one of FirstHealth’s oldest and most successful support groups. The group meets monthly in Moore Regional’s Monroe Auditorium and allows participants—patients, families and friends—to share their experiences.

“Since they’ve been through heart surgery themselves,” Batchelor says, “they can provide a special kind of support and reassurance. I’ve seen a lot of empathy.”

Currently, about 20 support groups focusing on a variety of diseases and conditions meet at FirstHealth of the Carolinas hospitals. There is a bariatric group for people who have gone through life-changing weight-loss surgery. Other groups focus on diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, mental illness, stroke and gastrointestinal disorders.

There are also groups that provide post-polio and ostomy support.

Breastfeeding mothers also meet as a group. So do people who are trying to stop smoking or who have recently quit. Both Moore Regional and Montgomery Memorial have Better Breathers groups for people who are dealing with chronic respiratory disease, and there are cancer support groups at both Richmond Memorial and Moore Regional.

All of the support groups are related to the patient education programs at FirstHealth hospitals.

National Cancer Survivors Day

It’s called National Cancer Survivors Day, but it’s actually for anyone who has experienced cancer from the perspective of patient, family, friend or health care provider.

It is observed throughout the country on the first Sunday in June. And for people who live in the Sandhills, it’s a big celebration that is hosted by FirstHealth of the Carolinas at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst.

“National Cancer Survivors Day brings together living people— not cancer victims—to share their smiles, tears and victories,” says Margie Thomas, R.N., assistant director of Radiation Oncology at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. “We honor our survivors for their strength and courage, and recognize their families and friends and health care providers for their many contributions.”

Thomas was a member of the local Cancer Survivors Day Committee for three years before assuming the role of committee chair from Kerry Husted, administrative director of Pharmacy/ Oncology Service Line, for the 2008 celebration. Other committee members include cancer survivors, hospital volunteers and FirstHealth employees who care for cancer patients.

More than 450 people attended the June 2008 National Cancer Survivors Day program. The event always begins with a short program—in 2008, it featured businesswoman Suzan Maddox, an 18-plus-year cancer survivor—that is followed by a Southern-style picnic, music and lots of fellowship.

“The intention of the celebration is to honor the life of cancer survivors—from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life,” Thomas says. “The day is filled with joy, camaraderie, hope and compassion.”

How does a community garden grow?

Belinda Stubbs’ garden plot was small, only 4 feet by 12 feet. But during the summer of 2008, it kept her and the friend who helped her tend it supplied with okra, tomatoes, peppers, collards, salad greens and watermelon.

A teaching assistant at the FirstHealth Child Development Center, Stubbs grew her summer fare in a community garden sponsored by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the Town of Southern Pines and the local N.C. Cooperative Extension Office.

“I had never had a garden before, but I thought it would be fun,” she says. “Everyone kind of helped everyone. You get to know each other and help each other out.”

Several other FirstHealth employees joined Stubbs in the gardening venture. Most were Southern Pines residents—young, old and in between. “We had young families, working folks and retirees, some expert gardeners and some who had no gardening experience,” says Melissa Watford, a health educator with FirstHealth Community Health Services. “It was truly intergenerational.”

The community garden was an offshoot of a similar project— called FirstGarden—that introduces healthy eating and outdoor physical activity to Southern Pines children. The partner groups for both ventures include Master Gardeners, who work closely with the FirstGarden children, and provide training and ongoing gardening tips for the community group.

“The community garden has been a positive, fun and exciting addition for the residents of Southern Pines,” says Robert Reeve, director of the town’s Recreation and Parks Department. “It has given people in the community a chance to come together and share the benefits of gardening as well as foster relationships among its owners.” Reeve is already accepting applications from people who are interested in taking part in the 2009 community garden project.

Above and beyond

Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer their time in support of good causes, but FirstHealth of the Carolinas does more than simply encourage volunteerism, it rewards it.

For every two hours that FirstHealth employees spend hammering nails for Habitat for Humanity, being a school buddy to a lowperforming student or helping an illiterate adult learn to read, they earn one extra hour of paid time off (PTO).

“This is a great example of FirstHealth giving above and beyond to demonstrate its commitment to giving back to the community,” says Barbara Bennett, administrative director of Community Health Services.

During the first nine months of 2008, 25 FirstHealth employees received about $4,000 worth of incentive PTO for some 200 hours of volunteer “work.”