Sometimes the most important things don’t play out in the headlines – or if they do, they’re buried back behind something else that’s more engaging in the short-term. Headlines, it turns out, can obscure something just as easily as they can highlight something.
It’s the lack of headlines – with no negativity implied – around what remains our region’s best kept secret that are the focus of this week’s column.
The emergence across the region of what’s now known as the ECU Health remains a shining star for all of us in Eastern North Carolina.
In short, this new healthcare entity combines the former Vidant Healthcare System with the ECU School of Medicine and creates a more capable, sustainable, and integrated healthcare model for what remains one of the most rural healthcare markets in the United States.
And closer to home The Outer Banks Hospital remains a remarkable quality-of-life anchor for everyone here.
Volunteers are currently working on what has become one of the largest private capital campaigns in the history of our region to build what will be a world-class cancer center in Nags Head.
Across our region – in places like Bertie County, Edenton, Edgecombe County, Greenville, and beyond – our communities are working together to bridge the immense complexity of the healthcare universe with the needs of everyday citizens in a way that makes good healthcare available to everyone.
And behind it all lies some of our most precious resources as a region–talented healthcare professionals working in collaboration with a wide array of entities to create better health outcomes for patients across the spans of our lives.
That merger alone is worth a round of applause – to bring two vibrant entities together in what might be the most complex operating environment in the United States suggests a strong commitment to work together, work hard, and do it right for our citizens.
Of course, it doesn’t come without challenges – nothing good ever does.
Labor costs, like with so many other industries, are growing rapidly. It’s as acute in the healthcare world as in any other industry, with a wide range of factors shrinking the labor pool–housing, demographics, affordability of education, and even the cumulative stress of the pandemic all playing a role.
Patients also play a role here. Eastern North Carolina, as a region, has a disproportionately large share of relatively older patients who rely on federal programs to offset healthcare costs.
In addition, Eastern North Carolinians tend to be a little less healthy than the average for a variety of reasons. From a financial lens, the higher the costs of healthcare the less affordable it becomes and that’s a national trend that’s particularly relevant in our region.
Even with those challenges, and they will be very tough ones to overcome, the very fact that these organizations have come together suggests a very real reason for optimism in our health outcomes.
Talk about Sound Strategy – the executives and staff members behind the scenes at ECU Health have pulled off a herculean task and it’s one that will benefit every single person in our region. This united and unified effort is perhaps the biggest headline of the year in our area.
All of that is to say the next time you see one of our wonderful healthcare professionals, stop for a moment to simply say thank you for what they do.
The honest truth is that we’re a better place, hands down, with them here. They need us to get a little more healthy, to be honest, and we need them to stick around Eastern North Carolina.
Thank you to the entire team at ECU Health for making such a profound difference in the lives of so many North Carolinians and our visitors.
WOBX Publisher Clark Twiddy is the author of Outer Banks Visionaries: Building North Carolina’s Oceanfront which is now available at local bookstores and online. This is his second book about the Outer Banks. “Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.