Text Size:SmallerNormalLargerPrint PageE-mail Page

NCCH Columns


Protect your family in the event of disasters


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

The possibility of an emergent situation is there at all times.
Just in the past few weeks in and around Willcox: A leak in the lines from Willcox's city well created the possibility of no water for an undetermined amount of time. Residents were fortunate that the City was able to fix it quickly! A violent thunderstorm brought hail, lightning and heavy rains that could have caused some flooding. During a separate monsoon storm, a resident lost a roof due to strong wind gusts. And this writer saw and reported a fire that started from lightning in the Dragoon Mountains. And finally, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative reminded us that power is not guaranteed, when a heat warning and issues at some power generation facilities caused a possible shortage for which we were asked to conserve energy.
For the incidents above, those affected thought about what they should do to protect themselves and others who depend on them. At Northern Cochise Community Hospital, our plans are already in place and we continue to practice for those possibilities. For both the possibility of losing water and the possibility of losing power, our Emergency Planning/Facilities Manager Bill Hopkins had the protocol set in place immediately. Everyone was informed and ready had the worst-case scenario come to fruition. And, kudos to Willcox School District, where employees practiced ALICE (active shooter) training last week.
Disasters are not rare. Since 2007, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared more than a thousand natural or man-made disasters in the U.S. Is your family ready?
To learn how to plan for the gamut of looming disasters, visit www.ready.gov. While September is National Preparedness Month, there is no reason to wait. August has been difficult enough here in the desert Southwest. Wildfires, extreme heat, thunderstorms/lightning and flooding are prevalent here. Learning the specifics for each situation is important and can be found at ready.gov/wildfires, or /heat, /floods, and /thunderstorms-lightning. For other risks, visit ready.gov/be-informed.
To make a plan for your family, check out ready.gov/make-a-plan and sign up for emergency alerts at ready.gov/alerts. Other advice? Know where your home electrical and gas shut-off valves are, or contact your utility company. Protect critical documents. Have insurance. And, maintain basic survival items: shelf-stable food; one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days; flashlights and batteries; a radio; duct tape and plastic to cover doors, windows, and vents; a first aid kit, including prescription drugs and equipment.
We live in a world of uncertainties. And although we usually are safe within our shelters, with the availability of water, food and power, there is no guarantee. Prepare your home and family for those times, just as NCCH continues to prepare for emergencies to keep you safe when you need it.



NCCH Columns


Shout out to community providers for free sports physicals


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

On Friday, Aug. 3 and Saturday, July 14, local medical providers donated free sports physicals to middle and high school students from schools in northeastern Cochise County.
From Ash Creek School near Elfrida to San Simon School near New Mexico, students trekked to Northern Cochise Community Hospital's Sulphur Springs Medical Clinic and private clinic, Walker Family Medicine, to receive needed health checks for those wanting to join sports offered by various schools.
From fall football to spring tennis, sports are a healthy alternative to sitting at home and watching TV or playing video games. But it is important that each child is determined healthy before they play, or that activity can hurt them. In a rural area that is not wealthy, a sports physical can be a real hardship for a family. And it doesn't help that some children have no insurance and must purchase a policy in order to play sports - an additional expense that makes free physicals even more important.
We thank all those providers and their staff members who volunteered their time to do 162 physicals at Sulphur Springs Medical Clinic in seven hours and 136 physicals in four hours at Walker Family Medicine. That is nearly 300 students who received medical care free of charge.
Also on Aug. 3, NCCH and Willcox Against Substance Abuse (WASA) provided a Back-to-School Health Fair for all children and their parents. It was held at the Rose C. Allan Senior Learning Center, conveniently across the street from SSMC. There, Cochise County Health and Social Services providers from the Willcox Office were able to immunize 10 children in need of vaccines, and the CCHSS Tobacco Prevention unit from Bisbee taught visitors about the harmful effects of smoking, e-cigarettes (vaping) and tobacco use.
Others at the health fair included a University of Arizona Cooperative Extension School Health Specialist, who gave out 350 water bottles to children and parents during the day, along with educational games that keep children active. WASA, Cochise College Willcox Center, Life Net/Air Methods and Department of Economic Security's Rehabilitation Services Administration handed out numerous needed school supplies to hundreds of students getting ready to start school. The National Park Service reminded all visitors of the wonderful beauty and outdoor opportunities at our nearby Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site and Coronado National Memorial.
The Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium handed out information on medicine safety, signs of prescription drug dependence, and signs and symptoms of medicine abuse in youth. SAOC also gave out drug abuse treatment hotline magnets and area treatment facility rack cards. NCCH let families know the many services the hospital has - we are not simply an emergency room and clinics! Some of those include inpatient and swing bed care, specialty clinics, and outpatient care, including lab, imaging, respiratory therapy and rehab. And kids received stress ball globes, reusable hot and cold packs, and goodies to keep them well, such as hand sanitizer and band aids!
If you missed the free sports physicals and NCCH/WASA fair, please come next year - where you can save money and have excellent healthcare, close to home.


NCCH Columns


Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Just over a year ago, Northern Cochise Community Hospital received a grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to build a network of partners with the goal to decrease opioid misuse and improve treatment outcomes for those addicted to opioids in Southern Arizona communities.
In July 2017, NCCH partnered with Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance (SAHA) members, which include Benson Hospital, Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, Mount Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford and Tucson Medical Center, for the grant. In September, we met with potential partners from southeastern Arizona, including behavioral health organizations, clinics, hospitals, first responders, government agencies, faith-based organizations, schools, and community organizations, and formed a consortium.
Known as the Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium (SAOC), NCCH and our partners have met twice a month over the past year to work together to reach these goals:
1. Education: Implement school and community education, as well as sharing best practices for opioid use.
2. Care Coordination: Improve and expand care coordination related to misuse of opioids and management of opioid-use disorder in Southern Arizona communities.
3. Behavioral Health: Increase opioid referrals from hospitals and clinics to behavioral health partners, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, wrap-around services, engagement specialists and peer support, so that treatment can continue.
During the past year, SAOC has accomplished some of those goals:
1. Education: SAOC increased the number of schools in Cochise County that will use certified curriculum by Botvin LifeSkills, which helps students understand the dangers of drug use, including opioids. The new school districts are Palominas, Bisbee and Douglas. Willcox School District had a state grant to begin the LifeSkills curriculum, but will add an opioid-specific section which came about through SAOC and the TMC Foundation. A train-the-trainer program will also help to continue adding LifeSkills to other schools in Cochise County.
2. Care Coordination: SAOC designed and printed an Opioid Treatment Reference Card (rack card) for providers and first responders, and the public if desired. The consortium also created a magnet with a county and state hotline to call for information for providers, first responders, patients or family members who may need it in crisis situations.
3. Behavioral Health: Cenpatico Integrated Care (soon to be Arizona Complete Health) now has a crisis team available for both NCCH and Benson Hospital emergency departments. The crisis team is there to give a patient with opioid addiction a warm handoff to their next treatment provider, which increases the odds for a patient's full recovery.
SAOC has also partnered with other groups who are working towards solutions to reduce the opioid epidemic and improve health in Southern Arizona communities, including the Cochise Addiction Recovery Partnership and Cochise County's Community Health Improvement Plan work groups.
We continue to work beyond the grant year, with bi-weekly meetings where partners can communicate issues and work on solutions. Northern Cochise Community Hospital is grateful for our many partners who participate and work together in efforts to help each other and the communities we serve.


NCCH Columns


Meet NCCH's new Chief Nursing Officer


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Meet Peter Roth. Retired Army. Emergency Medical Service volunteer. County Director of EMS. Nurse. Flight Nurse. Trauma Nurse. Emergency Room Nursing Director. Assistant Chief Nursing Officer. Outdoor enthusiast. And now, Northern Cochise Community Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer.
Roth spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, starting at Fort Bragg in California, with tours at Fort Devens, Mass., and Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, among others, and retiring at the Special Operations Headquarters at MacDill in Tampa, Fla.
"What I did in the Army had nothing to do with the medical field, but in intelligence. I worked in Special Operations," Roth said. "But I received my EMS certification, and wherever I went, I volunteered as a paramedic with the local EMS."
He then received his bachelor's degree in EMS management at Texas Tech University.
"When I retired, I moved to San Antonio, worked with EMS and went to Nursing School at San Antonio College. When I became a nurse, I hung up my EMS wild side and got my first job as a flight nurse on a Lear Jet that transported a single patient at a time, with a flight nurse and respiratory therapist - and occasionally a doctor if necessary. I flew all over the world for two years," he said.
Next he went to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta - a Level 1 trauma center - for five years.
"I worked in the Emergency Department as a trauma nurse. The ER had 120 beds. I saw just about everything there," he said.
Then at Fort Walton Beach Hospital in Florida, a 257-bed Level 2 Trauma hospital, Roth was assistant Chief Nursing Officer.
Not finished with his education, Roth went on to complete his Master's in Nursing Education through the University of Phoenix and his Doctorate at American Sentinel University in Aurora, Co.
His explanation? "I like to stay busy."
How did he end up in Willcox?
"I saw the online advertisement and remembered how much I loved the climate while at the Fort. I've had enough humidity at the beach," he said. But he is excited to enjoy the mountains and lakes here in Southern Arizona.
He visited Willcox prior to accepting the position and said he loved "how the local people treat you and I look forward to serving the community. I want to get involved with the community, as well."
Roth added, "I want people to know what we have at the hospital and have them come here instead of elsewhere. If there had been a bad experience, give us the opportunity to make it better."



NCCH Columns


NCCH provides health education to community


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Summer is supposed to be a bit slow - time to relax and take a vacation. But, like the need for health care, Northern Cochise Community Hospital doesn't stop to take a break.
Providing health education and opportunities for people within our district to help them live a healthier lifestyle is important to NCCH.
To that end, we have two events coming up to share with our seniors and our children.
On Friday, July 27, NCCH will sponsor a quarterly breakfast presentation for seniors in Willcox.
The free Quarterly Senior Breakfast will have a presentation by Gary Brauchla, a cardiac arrest survivor and spokesman for TMC Heart to Heart Support Group. He will also teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to the seniors.

The 8:30 a.m. event will be held at the Rose C. Allan Senior Learning Center in Willcox, at 990 W. Scott St. Please RSVP by tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, to Ainslee Wittig at 520-766-6514.
An NCCH-sponsored senior breakfast with Brauchla's presentation was also held in Sunsites on July 20.
On Friday, Aug. 3, from 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., NCCH providers will give free sports physicals to middle and high school students at Sulphur Springs Medical Center, 900 W. Scott St., in Willcox. All area school children, including homeschool, are eligible for the free sports physicals.
Also, just across Scott Street, a concurrent Willcox Against Substance Abuse (WASA) and NCCH Back-to-School Health Fair will be going on from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Rose C. Allan Senior Learning Center in Willcox, at 990 W. Scott St.
Vendors will include WASA, Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium/NCCH, LifeNet/Air Methods, Cochise County Health and Social Services (prevention), UofA Cooperative Extension School Health Specialist Casi Ruffo, and Cochise College, which will give away about 200 backpacks to children in need! All are welcome!
Also this summer, Northern Cochise Community Hospital Auxiliary held the Earl Goolsby and Friends Concert, on June 29 at the First Baptist Church to raise money for NCCH Auxiliary Scholarships and the hospital. Lively and poignant music from pianist Earl Gooslby, cellist/pianist Rebecca Collins, and the First Baptist Church Quartet, including Pastor Stephen Kibler, Linda Clifton, Dibbi Todd and Goolsby made for a wonderful evening. Refreshments were served by the NCCH Auxiliary and the drawing for a king-size handmade quilt was held. The 50th Anniversary quilt - designed by Wanda Goolsby and quilted by Kathy Wolfe - was won by Mary Jo Dullum.
Between the raffle and the concert, about $1,800 was raised. Thank you to the community for its support, which helps NCCH to continue its excellent care, close to home.



NCCH Columns


NCCH explores new service possibilities


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Heath care continuously changes - not only through improvements in treatment, but also in its business models. Insurance and regulations can change the bottom line of a hospital in no time.
That is why Northern Cochise Community Hospital is constantly looking ahead.
CEO Roland Knox spoke with staff last week about options NCCH is looking at to help patients, but also the bottom line, as we can't help one without the other.
As medical criteria have changed to admit patients to the hospital, and get paid for it, fewer patients are spending time on the medical floor.
Knox said, "We are now averaging about 2.5 patients per day (admitted into the hospital). This is common now for small rural Critical Access Hospitals like NCCH, but this is 25 percent of what it has been in the last two years, so we are searching for the new services that our community needs" to keep the hospital viable.
He said the hospital is in the analysis process for several possible services, including:
• Telehealth in both our clinics and emergency department
• Urgent Care (when you can't see your provider and it's not an emergency situation)
• Oncology - Chemotherapy through our 340B pharmacy program and a Cochise County provider
• Swing Bed Program, which allows those who aren't ready to go home but are not in need of acute care to stay in the hospital
• Expanding Rehab services, such as with cardio-pulmonary / cardiac rehab or opening rehab services at other sites
"These are all pieces of the puzzle that might help us and our community. As we are in transition, we are analyzing these services and looking at our resources to try to provide them," Knox said, adding that looking ahead gives us options.
In the meantime, NCCH continues all of its current services, including the NCCH emergency department, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, full-service lab, Imaging (including CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, mammography, bone density, and X-rays), cardiopulmonary services, rural health clinics in Willcox and Sunsites -- and medical and nursing services.
"We will continue to admit patients who need to be here," Knox said.
NCCH is here to take care of its patients and it will continue to do that, with excellent care, close to home.



NCCH Columns


Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

"As the summer months roll around, so does Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease!" said Amber Sherwood, RN, BSN, at Northern Cochise Community Hospital. "We saw our first case this year in the ER on July 7."
Sherwood is NCCH's infection control and employee health nurse and wanted to send out a reminder to "wash your hands often and keep high touch work areas clean" to avoid Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
HFMD is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old, but it can occur in older children and adults.
Coxsackievirus A16, one of those in the Enterovirus group, is the most common cause of HFMD, and cases usually occur from spring through fall.
Viruses that cause HFMD can be spread through close contact; the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes; or contact with feces, such as changing diapers of an infected person, or contaminated objects and surfaces, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands
While there is no vaccine in the United States to protect against the viruses that cause HFMD, you can reduce your risk by:
• Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including toys
• Avoiding close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils with people with HFMD
Symptoms of the disease may be: fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and malaise (feeling unwell). One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth, usually beginning as small red spots in the back of the mouth, that blister and can become painful. A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet may also develop over one or two days as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. Children may dehydrate if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.
A person with HFMD is usually most contagious during the first week, but people can sometimes be contagious for weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and not develop symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. Therefore, maintaining good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, can minimize the chance of infections.
There is no treatment for HFMD, but you can relieve symptoms by taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration and using mouthwashes or sprays to numb mouth pain.
HFMD is usually not serious, and most recover within 10 days without medical treatment. But the Center for Disease Control wants you to know that in rare cases, an infected person can develop viral meningitis or complications such as polio-like paralysis, or encephalitis (brain inflammation) which can be fatal.
Should you have questions, call Sulphur Springs Medical Clinic or Sunsites Medical Clinic for more information or an appointment.



NCCH Columns


Valley Fever cases up this year


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Cases of Valley Fever have nearly doubled this year in Arizona, as compared to this time last year.
From January through May 2017, there were 471 confirmed cases of Valley Fever (medical name coccidioidomycosis or "cocci" for short). For the same period in 2018, 877 cases have been confirmed by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).
Valley Fever is an infection of the lungs caused by a fungus that grows in the native soil in Arizona, as well as in southern and central California and portions of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah in the southwestern United States.
When dirt or dust containing the fungus is inhaled it may cause Valley Fever. Most people have no symptoms, but the 40 percent who have symptoms may suffer for weeks or even months. Fatigue and aches in your joints can last for a long time. People with a chronic case of the disease may be ill for years.
According to ADHS, symptoms may include: cough, fever, exhaustion, rash, chest pain, night sweats, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, weight loss and lack of appetite. Symptoms usually appear within seven to 28 days after breathing in fungal spores. Symptoms are often slow to appear with chronic Valley Fever infections.
Most of people with Valley Fever recover without treatment. Talk to your doctor about whether you need treatment, as experts are unsure whether antifungal treatment speeds up recovery or prevents complications. This is particularly important because antifungals can cause side effects.
Doctors usually monitor the progress of a patient by chest x-rays, following the cocci serology (blood test) titer and the severity and duration of symptoms. This may require frequent visits to the doctor.
However, if weight loss and night sweats continue, infiltrates in the lungs enlarge, and the patient us unable to perform daily functions, treatment with antifungal medication usually is considered. In rare cases, surgery may be required. Antibiotics have no effect on the fungus and should be avoided unless prescribed by a doctor.
Preventing Valley Fever is difficult since anyone who breathes in air in areas where the fungus lives can get it. However, avoiding blowing dust and staying inside during a dust storm is recommended. Masks may help if you are planning to clean up outside areas that may include dirt and dust.
ADHS suggests that the best way to protect yourself is to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease and if you have them, ask your provider to test you for it with a simple blood draw at NCCH lab.
Finally, Northern Cochise Community Hospital wishes everyone a happy and healthy Independence Day!


NCCH Columns


The future of Healthcare and NCCH


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Change is inevitable.
Technology advances. The Legislature passes new laws. Communities adapt and businesses innovate and revise. All of us try to adjust to maximize our worth in our new environs.
Hospitals are no different. Across the country, changes in models of care, insurance payments and the needs of patients and community have created a different environment for big city hospitals, as well as small rural hospitals.
Recently, a "new" model of hospital has become more common due to changes in insurance. The "Micro Hospital" model has decreased the number of inpatient stays as insurance companies now have more stringent criteria to allow acute patients to stay overnight. And outpatient services have increased.
While some rural hospitals are now converting to that model, NCCH is essentially a micro hospital now, as it has already adjusted and made those changes.
NCCH focuses on emergency care -- a necessity for communities far from trauma centers in large cities, and a variety of outpatient services, including rural health clinics, lab, imaging, respiratory, rehab, nursing services, 340B pharmacy and endoscopy services, so that people don't have to travel far for these important services.
CEO Roland Knox and NCCH management have continuously kept abreast of changes in the healthcare climate in order to keep our hospital healthy, both financially and for our community.

As a hospital, we understand that local conditions have a huge impact on the health risks and health outcomes of the people we serve. Everything from a lack of access to healthy foods to a lack of safety at the local playground can create differences in health. NCCH continues to work with the communities in the district it serves to address challenges which are crucial to building healthy communities.

As the healthcare environment continues to change, so will NCCH. We continue to look ahead and are prepared to move forward with best practices and value for our patients and communities.

"NCCH remains committed to the communities we serve by providing hospital services. We will deliver services in a way that is responsible to the community, who relies on us to be a good steward of resources they provide us," Knox said. "We always have and always will put the needs of the patient first. "




NCCH Columns


NCCH explores new service possibilities


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Heath care continuously changes - not only through improvements in treatment, but also in its business models. Insurance and regulations can change the bottom line of a hospital in no time.
That is why Northern Cochise Community Hospital is constantly looking ahead.
CEO Roland Knox spoke with staff last week about options NCCH is looking at to help patients, but also the bottom line, as we can't help one without the other.
As medical criteria have changed to admit patients to the hospital, and get paid for it, fewer patients are spending time on the medical floor.
Knox said, "We are now averaging about 2.5 patients per day (admitted into the hospital). This is common now for small rural Critical Access Hospitals like NCCH, but this is 25 percent of what it has been in the last two years, so we are searching for the new services that our community needs" to keep the hospital viable.
He said the hospital is in the analysis process for several possible services, including:
• Telehealth in both our clinics and emergency department
• Urgent Care (when you can't see your provider and it's not an emergency situation)
• Oncology - Chemotherapy through our 340B pharmacy program and a Cochise County provider
• Swing Bed Program, which allows those who aren't ready to go home but are not in need of acute care to stay in the hospital
• Expanding Rehab services, such as with cardio-pulmonary / cardiac rehab or opening rehab services at other sites
"These are all pieces of the puzzle that might help us and our community. As we are in transition, we are analyzing these services and looking at our resources to try to provide them," Knox said, adding that looking ahead gives us options.
In the meantime, NCCH continues all of its current services, including the NCCH emergency department, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, full-service lab, Imaging (including CT scan, ultrasound, MRI, mammography, bone density, and X-rays), cardiopulmonary services, rural health clinics in Willcox and Sunsites -- and medical and nursing services.
"We will continue to admit patients who need to be here," Knox said.
NCCH is here to take care of its patients and it will continue to do that, with excellent care, close to home.


NCCH Columns


Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

"As the summer months roll around, so does Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease!" said Amber Sherwood, RN, BSN, at Northern Cochise Community Hospital. "We saw our first case this year in the ER on July 7."
Sherwood is NCCH's infection control and employee health nurse and wanted to send out a reminder to "wash your hands often and keep high touch work areas clean" to avoid Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
HFMD is a common viral illness that usually affects infants and children younger than 5 years old, but it can occur in older children and adults.
Coxsackievirus A16, one of those in the Enterovirus group, is the most common cause of HFMD, and cases usually occur from spring through fall.
Viruses that cause HFMD can be spread through close contact; the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes; or contact with feces, such as changing diapers of an infected person, or contaminated objects and surfaces, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands
While there is no vaccine in the United States to protect against the viruses that cause HFMD, you can reduce your risk by:
• Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after changing diapers and using the toilet.
• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including toys
• Avoiding close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils with people with HFMD
Symptoms of the disease may be: fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and malaise (feeling unwell). One or two days after the fever starts, painful sores can develop in the mouth, usually beginning as small red spots in the back of the mouth, that blister and can become painful. A skin rash on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet may also develop over one or two days as flat, red spots, sometimes with blisters. It may also appear on the knees, elbows, buttocks or genital area. Children may dehydrate if they are not able to swallow enough liquids because of painful mouth sores.
A person with HFMD is usually most contagious during the first week, but people can sometimes be contagious for weeks after symptoms go away. Some people, especially adults, may become infected and not develop symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. Therefore, maintaining good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, can minimize the chance of infections.
There is no treatment for HFMD, but you can relieve symptoms by taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and fever, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration and using mouthwashes or sprays to numb mouth pain.
HFMD is usually not serious, and most recover within 10 days without medical treatment. But the Center for Disease Control wants you to know that in rare cases, an infected person can develop viral meningitis or complications such as polio-like paralysis, or encephalitis (brain inflammation) which can be fatal.
Should you have questions, call Sulphur Springs Medical Clinic or Sunsites Medical Clinic for more information or an appointment.


NCCH Columns


Meet NCCH's new Chief Nursing Officer


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Meet Peter Roth. Retired Army. Emergency Medical Service volunteer. County Director of EMS. Nurse. Flight Nurse. Trauma Nurse. Emergency Room Nursing Director. Assistant Chief Nursing Officer. Outdoor enthusiast. And now, Northern Cochise Community Hospital's Chief Nursing Officer.
Roth spent 21 years in the U.S. Army, starting at Fort Bragg in California, with tours at Fort Devens, Mass., and Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, among others, and retiring at the Special Operations Headquarters at MacDill in Tampa, Fla.
"What I did in the Army had nothing to do with the medical field, but in intelligence. I worked in Special Operations," Roth said. "But I received my EMS certification, and wherever I went, I volunteered as a paramedic with the local EMS."
He then received his bachelor's degree in EMS management at Texas Tech University.
"When I retired, I moved to San Antonio, worked with EMS and went to Nursing School at San Antonio College. When I became a nurse, I hung up my EMS wild side and got my first job as a flight nurse on a Lear Jet that transported a single patient at a time, with a flight nurse and respiratory therapist - and occasionally a doctor if necessary. I flew all over the world for two years," he said.
Next he went to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta - a Level 1 trauma center - for five years.
"I worked in the Emergency Department as a trauma nurse. The ER had 120 beds. I saw just about everything there," he said.
Then at Fort Walton Beach Hospital in Florida, a 257-bed Level 2 Trauma hospital, Roth was assistant Chief Nursing Officer.
Not finished with his education, Roth went on to complete his Master's in Nursing Education through the University of Phoenix and his Doctorate at American Sentinel University in Aurora, Co.
His explanation? "I like to stay busy."
How did he end up in Willcox?
"I saw the online advertisement and remembered how much I loved the climate while at the Fort. I've had enough humidity at the beach," he said. But he is excited to enjoy the mountains and lakes here in Southern Arizona.
He visited Willcox prior to accepting the position and said he loved "how the local people treat you and I look forward to serving the community. I want to get involved with the community, as well."
Roth added, "I want people to know what we have at the hospital and have them come here instead of elsewhere. If there had been a bad experience, give us the opportunity to make it better."

NCCH Columns


Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium


Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

Just over a year ago, Northern Cochise Community Hospital received a grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy's Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to build a network of partners with the goal to decrease opioid misuse and improve treatment outcomes for those addicted to opioids in Southern Arizona communities.
In July 2017, NCCH partnered with Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance (SAHA) members, which include Benson Hospital, Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, Mount Graham Regional Medical Center in Safford and Tucson Medical Center, for the grant. In September, we met with potential partners from southeastern Arizona, including behavioral health organizations, clinics, hospitals, first responders, government agencies, faith-based organizations, schools, and community organizations, and formed a consortium.
Known as the Southern Arizona Opioid Consortium (SAOC), NCCH and our partners have met twice a month over the past year to work together to reach these goals:
1. Education: Implement school and community education, as well as sharing best practices for opioid use.
2. Care Coordination: Improve and expand care coordination related to misuse of opioids and management of opioid-use disorder in Southern Arizona communities.
3. Behavioral Health: Increase opioid referrals from hospitals and clinics to behavioral health partners, including Medication-Assisted Treatment, wrap-around services, engagement specialists and peer support, so that treatment can continue.
During the past year, SAOC has accomplished some of those goals:
1. Education: SAOC increased the number of schools in Cochise County that will use certified curriculum by Botvin LifeSkills, which helps students understand the dangers of drug use, including opioids. The new school districts are Palominas, Bisbee and Douglas. Willcox School District had a state grant to begin the LifeSkills curriculum, but will add an opioid-specific section which came about through SAOC and the TMC Foundation. A train-the-trainer program will also help to continue adding LifeSkills to other schools in Cochise County.
2. Care Coordination: SAOC designed and printed an Opioid Treatment Reference Card (rack card) for providers and first responders, and the public if desired. The consortium also created a magnet with a county and state hotline to call for information for providers, first responders, patients or family members who may need it in crisis situations.
3. Behavioral Health: Cenpatico Integrated Care (soon to be Arizona Complete Health) now has a crisis team available for both NCCH and Benson Hospital emergency departments. The crisis team is there to give a patient with opioid addiction a warm handoff to their next treatment provider, which increases the odds for a patient's full recovery.
SAOC has also partnered with other groups who are working towards solutions to reduce the opioid epidemic and improve health in Southern Arizona communities, including the Cochise Addiction Recovery Partnership and Cochise County's Community Health Improvement Plan work groups.
We continue to work beyond the grant year, with bi-weekly meetings where partners can communicate issues and work on solutions. Northern Cochise Community Hospital is grateful for our many partners who participate and work together in efforts to help each other and the communities we serve.


NCCH Columns

Deadly drug hit the streets in Tucson: Be aware of the danger of street drugs

PIMA COUNTY/TUCSON METROPOLITAN
COUNTER NARCOTICS ALLIANCE
7850 N. Silverbell #114-342
Tucson, Arizona 85743-8219
(520) 719-2002


The Counter Narcotics Alliance (CNA) is making this information available as a public safety and public health advisory. We ask that this information be shared with drug treatment, harm reduction, health care organizations or other interested entities.

Recently, Arizona law enforcement in the metropolitan Phoenix area made their first confirmed drug seizure of counterfeit pills containing CARFENTANIL (also spelled CARFENTANYL). Several hundred pills packaged for sale were seized. The pills were light blue in color and imprinted with an "A 215" marking (see photo on page 2). Previous counterfeit pill seizures with the "A 215" marking have contained FENTANYL or its analogues. These pills are sold on the streets as "blues", "Oxy", "Oxys" and are made to appear as pharmaceutically produced 30 mg oxycodone pills.

Carfentanil is an extremely powerful, deadly synthetically produced opioid analgesic compound. It is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine, 1,000 times more powerful than heroin, and 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. A 20 micro-gram dosage (size equivalency to 1/3rd of a single grain of salt) is lethal to humans. There are no medically approved uses for this drug in humans. Its only legitimate use is to sedate elephants.

CNA would like to inform people that should they come in contact with a substance they believe may contain carfentanil, not to handle the substance. Leave it in place, evacuate people from the immediate area of an exposure, close off the area from ventilation sources that may spread the substance, and dial 911. Advise 911 of your situation and wait for help.

CNA wants the community to consider the following four important suggestions:

If you or someone you know has pain management issues, talk to your physician on a regular basis to learn how to best manage the pain.

If you do need pain medication(s), only obtain those medications from a licensed pharmacy in the United States. NEVER TRUST A STREET SOURCE FOR A SUPPLY OF DRUGS.

If you or someone you know has an Opioid Use Disorder, consider obtaining NARCAN (naloxone). This overdose reversal drug is easy to use and can be obtained at most pharmacies without a prescription.

If you or someone you know has an Opioid Use Disorder, then seek treatment. Various treatment options are immediately available, affordable and effective.

Questions on this bulletin may be directed to Lt. Chris Wildblood (christian.wildblood@tucsonaz.gov) at the Counter Narcotics Alliance (520) 719-2002 x826.




Affordability is a goal at NCCH

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

While Northern Cochise Community Hospital strives to meet your needs by providing essential healthcare services, we realize that simply providing these services is not enough.
NCCH wants to make these essential services not only available, but also accessible (with longer hours and a variety of clinics), and especially, affordable - at a cost that is reasonable.
Here are a few things NCCH is doing to combat rising healthcare costs for our customers:
• "In December 2016, NCCH made overall price reductions in eight service lines, such as radiology and lab," Kim Aguirre, patient financial services director, said.
"We now see a 30-percent reduction in charges - meaning, we charge, on average, 30-percent less for both insurance and what is on your bill," she said. "We felt this was necessary due to the rising costs of healthcare. This reduction will help those with high deductible plans and uninsured or underinsured patients."
• Because NCCH is designated a Critical Access Hospital, traditional Medicare patients have no out-of-pocket expenses for lab work.
"If a traditional Medicare patient gets a lab done at NCCH, they will receive no statement (bill). I want to shed some light on that," Aguirre said. "You will receive a bill from other lab locations that are not designated Critical Access Hospitals."
Critical Access Hospitals are hospitals with limited beds, swing bed care and other qualifications, that allow reimbursement based on the cost to perform services, she said.
• Self-pay patients receive a 40-percent discount on their bill either on the same day of service or anytime before the first statement is received by the patient - usually one to two weeks.
"We will honor that 40-percent discount up to that point, and after that, and prior to the second statement, we can give the self-pay patient a 30-percent discount," Aguirre said.
• Financial assistance programs are also available to anyone having difficulty paying. Information on prices of most commonly used services and on financial assistance programs are found at www.ncch.com by going to Patient Info in the top bar, and then clicking HERE next to Financial Assistance Program or NCCH Pricing Transparency List.
"We are always available to discuss options and make arrangements, whether it is additional discounts or payment plans, even if you have already received a statement. We are here to assist and open to several options. As a billing department we take the time to listen and understand that life is full of unexpected circumstances," she said.
Call 520-766-6524 or 520-766-6541 for help or more information, or visit the Billing Department by entering the hospital at the East Wing on Arizona Avenue.




NCCH Columns

Rehab for the PT department

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

The physical therapy department at Northern Cochise Community Hospital will soon receive some rehab of its own. While NCCH is already a provider of comprehensive rehabilitation services for both inpatient and outpatient customers, the size of the department will double by the end of the year.
Welton Wittwer, the hospital's physical therapist, said he is excited about the additional space and the changes that will take place within the larger area.
Bill Hopkins, NCCH facilities manager, said the architect, engineers and electricians have already done their specifications for the area, which will then be submitted to the state.
"It should take 60 to 120 days from there. In the meantime, we will do some space planning with the architect and the Rehabilitation Department staff. We may start in October or November. The department is expanding into the old medical records area (adjacent to Rehab), so it should double the space," Hopkins said.
Double the space has led to growth in the department, with an additional PTA (physical therapy assistant) - Catherine Whipp, who started Aug. 14, so "no one has to wait to come in and get an evaluation."
Wittwer has been at NCCH for three months. PTA John Ambrose has been at the hospital for more than seven years, and Angela Lopez works double-duty as receptionist and therapy aid. Another aim for the department's update is to streamline the registration process, Wittwer noted.
Wittwer said he wants to fill the new space with more equipment, some the hospital already has, and some on a wish list. He also plans to use a room in the previous medical records area as a dry needling room.
"I am certified in dry needling, which can relieve pain from numerous musculoskeletal conditions - for example, in the neck, shoulder, foot, back - just about anywhere. The treatment helps decrease pain and improve mobility," he said.
According to the American Physical Therapy Associations, the technique uses a "dry" needle, one without medication or injection, inserted through the skin into areas of the muscle with the goal of releasing or inactivating trigger points to relieve pain or improve range of motion.
Whether recovering from a surgery or an injury, inpatient or outpatient, the department has the equipment and providers you need to get strong and healthy, with quality care, close to home.




NCCH Columns

Kick up your heels, raise money for NCCH Sept. 9

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

It's not easy for a hospital to afford new medical equipment. And costs of other upgrades, usually secondary to medical equipment, can also be challenging for a small, rural non-profit hospital.
Last year, the Northern Cochise Community Hospital Foundation raised more than $65,000 at its Boots 'n' Bling Western Fling fundraiser. The funds were dedicated this year to a new automated medicine dispenser, which was negotiated down from $50,651 to $33,300, with the balance of $17,351 going toward the upcoming upgrade of the Emergency Room. In 2016, the Foundation provided $75,000 for a new Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner - the majority of which came from the event in 2015.
This year, the Foundation hopes to raise $65,000 at the event for a new ultrasound machine for the Imaging Department. The Foundation also plans to donate $14,000 to purchase a new defibrillator for the Emergency Department.
Can you help make that happen, and have fun, to boot? (Pun intended!)
The fifth annual Boots 'n' Bling Western Fling will be held at the Willcox Elks Lodge on Saturday, Sept. 9, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets for the dinner and dance are $50 per person.
Dance only tickets, with Neal McCowan and the Good Time Band, of Las Cruces, N.M., are available after 8:30 p.m., at the door, for $10 per person.
A raffle will be held for a pair of sparkling orange sapphire (1.19 carats) and diamond (0.18 carats total) halo earrings, all set in 14K white gold diamond hoops. Tickets may be purchased at the Community Relations office (Ainslee Wittig) in the admin building on Bowie Street, next to the hospital, or at the event. Tickets are $5 for one or $10 for three.
Silent and live auctions will be held and a no-host bar will begin a 6 p.m.
A taste of the items at the auctions -- a stay at a condominium at Rocky Point, Mexico, and a Yeti ice chest at the live auction, and six awesome wine baskets and assorted packages of Klein Tools at the silent auction!
Have fun and donate to our community's future.
Support NCCH through its Foundation and kick up your heels on Sept. 9!




NCCH Columns

Updates in the Emergency Department

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

At Northern Cochise Community Hospital, we are working to be the best we can be for our customers.
Yes, patients -- and their families -- are our customers. Whether in the hospital or at one of our clinics, we work for the best possible outcome for each person who comes through the doors.
One of the current projects to better our hospital and your hospital experience, is the updating of our Emergency Department. The project is expected to be complete by the end of September; and the ER will stay open throughout the process.
Bill Hopkins, NCCH facility manager, explained the process.
"The first thing will be replacing the flooring. The new Teknoflor flooring is antimicrobial and lower maintenance than the current flooring, which is 10 years old, maybe more," he said.
Next, the walls will be painted with antimicrobial paint. Ceiling tiles will be replaced and crash rails will be added to the walls to prevent damage from moving beds and equipment.
"We will upgrade the lighting to LED lighting, which will be like night and day for the physicians, as compared to the lighting in the ER now," Hopkins said. "It will also lower our costs."
"For the patients, we will install new privacy curtains, and we are looking to put TVs in some of the rooms, as family members are often present," he said.
A new security system with cameras and new door access controls will be added to the Emergency Department, as well.
Emergency department director, Dr. Joshua Dopko, said he looks forward to the completion of the aesthetic and user-friendly updates.
"I think the more modern facilities will add quite a bit to the look of the ER," Dopko said.
Hopkins said the ER is the first phase of updating the facilities, with phase 2 to include the flooring in the front lobby, the radiology hallway and the nurses' station.
Entryways will remain the same for the ER and it will continue 24-hour service. We look forward to having a healthier, brighter and more accommodating environment, where residents can receive excellent care close to home.




Your hospital works for you

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

While some of you may know me already, I am introducing myself in a new capacity as the community relations coordinator at Northern Cochise Community Hospital, in Willcox. I come here from the newspaper industry, where I have spent 20 years at the Arizona Range News, as a reporter and then as managing editor.

In that capacity, I have strived to write informative, accurate and unbiased articles on a variety of subjects. The majority of people who work as newspaper journalists believe strongly in what they do. They know the importance of getting information out to the public so they can evaluate that information and make informed decisions.

I was excited about moving to an industry where I can retain those same values.

Healthcare employees believe in what they do. They care about people. They want to educate and motivate residents to be healthy. Whether it is at the emergency room, the health fair or a visit to a clinic, the goals at NCCH are the same: to remedy health issues and educate on how to live a healthy lifestyle, while focusing on core values of Compassion, Integrity, Community and Trust.

As your local healthcare organization, Northern Cochise Community Hospital has a direct impact on the people of Willcox and the residents living in its 2,000 square-mile service area (the size of Delaware!) in Northern Cochise and Southern Graham counties. I am pleased to join the caring employees at NCCH in our quest for healthy, happy residents.

To further that effort, I will be writing a weekly column in the Arizona Range News where I can continue to give residents information to help them receive quality care and stay healthy, right here close to home.

NCCH Columns

Accessibility is key in care at NCCH

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

You visit the emergency room with high blood pressure and are admitted to the hospital. Soon you feel much better and you are discharged. Two days later, on Saturday, you have concerns about possible side effects from medication. Your primary care physician can't see you until Monday. Who can afford to go to the emergency room again?

At Northern Cochise Community Hospital, you have another option. And it's free.

You can call your hospitalist -- the doctor who takes care of you while in the hospital -- on his or her local cell phone at any time, day or night, before your primary care appointment, to get advice, alleviate your concern or take other action if needed.

NCCH chose wisely when it hired the Rural Physicians Group (RPG) in January.

Through RPG, a core group of four physicians provides hospital coverage at NCCH. Three of them rotate between NCCH and other rural hospitals, with stays of seven to 10 days each. The fourth, Dr. Hisham Hamam, who has been at NCCH for eight years, remains in Willcox.

"Personally, I didn't see a change when we moved to Rural Physicians Group because I do not rotate to other hospitals. But the requirement (by RPG) to live on-site is advantageous. I like it here and it feels like I work from home. We are very quick to serve patients, even late at night," Hamam said.

With the RPG system, a hospitalist must be available on-site at NCCH 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and living inside the facility, the hospitalist offers quick response time.

Hamam said that Rural Physicians Group hospitalists "enjoy their work in Willcox and want to continue coming to NCCH."

But if a hospitalist had an emergency elsewhere, Rural Physicians Group, by design, also ensures hospitalist coverage at all times.

While local cell phones and in-house availability are a big part of the service for RPG, there is more.

Teamwork is valued at RPG, as hospitalists empower NCCH staff through real-time education, enhancing their skills in caring for more acute patients.

And most importantly, hospitalists work to achieve full patient satisfaction through coordination and continuity of care, from the time the patient is admitted to NCCH to their follow-up with a primary care physician. They also maintain effective communication with patients, their families and their primary care physicians.

The best of care and communication, all close to home at NCCH.




Your hospital works for you

Ainslee Wittig / NCCH Community Relations

While some of you may know me already, I am introducing myself in a new capacity as the community relations coordinator at Northern Cochise Community Hospital, in Willcox. I come here from the newspaper industry, where I have spent 20 years at the Arizona Range News, as a reporter and then as managing editor.

In that capacity, I have strived to write informative, accurate and unbiased articles on a variety of subjects. The majority of people who work as newspaper journalists believe strongly in what they do. They know the importance of getting information out to the public so they can evaluate that information and make informed decisions.

I was excited about moving to an industry where I can retain those same values.

Healthcare employees believe in what they do. They care about people. They want to educate and motivate residents to be healthy. Whether it is at the emergency room, the health fair or a visit to a clinic, the goals at NCCH are the same: to remedy health issues and educate on how to live a healthy lifestyle, while focusing on core values of Compassion, Integrity, Community and Trust.

As your local healthcare organization, Northern Cochise Community Hospital has a direct impact on the people of Willcox and the residents living in its 2,000 square-mile service area (the size of Delaware!) in Northern Cochise and Southern Graham counties. I am pleased to join the caring employees at NCCH in our quest for healthy, happy residents.

To further that effort, I will be writing a weekly column in the Arizona Range News where I can continue to give residents information to help them receive quality care and stay healthy, right here close to home.