To the Community that Day Kimball Hospital Serves
Letter to the Editor | Villager Papers | June 17, 2022
As Chairman of the Day Kimball Hospital Emergency Department and Chief Medical Officer of NES Health, which manages a combination of 40 hospital emergency departments and hospitalist programs across the country, I have a unique perspective of the affiliation between Day Kimball Healthcare and Covenant Health.
First, I am so proud of our hospital. Over the 17 years that I have been on the staff at DKH, I have seen amazing changes to both the Emergency Department and the hospital as a whole. What we have accomplished and continue to achieve is truly remarkable. Among these achievements include Leap Frog Grade A for patient safety three terms consecutively, Joint Commission Certification in Stroke and Joint Replacement, a leader in New England in sepsis care, best metrics in Emergency Medicine compared to other hospitals in CT and New England, and best metrics in door to angioplasty for acute heart attacks when compared to other community hospitals affiliated with the University of Massachusetts.
When Day Kimball was searching for a partner, it was important to us to find a partnership that would nurture and grow what we have done in terms of quality and safety. During my years at Day Kimball Hospital, I have been fortunate to work with Dr. Douglas Waite when we served as DKH’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Waite is now the Chief Medical Officer of Covenant Health and has spent his career focused on improving quality and safety for hospitals. I know that this is the most important mission for Covenant and I am certain that we will only improve on what we have accomplished and do not have to be concerned about losing the standards that makes our hospital a leader in quality and safety.
As the Chief Medical Officer of NES Health, I have witnessed many mergers. The ideal merger focuses on quality and safety, not profits, brings resources to a hospital that the hospital cannot afford alone, and allows that hospital to function independently with independent leadership to best serve the unique aspects of the community. Covenant Health does all of this. As I have already discussed quality and safety, I will now focus on the addition of resources and hospital autonomy.
Covenant has a plan for much needed IT resources. Currently Day Kimball is running off of a base system that is no longer supported. It is only through the continued diligence of our local IT personnel that has kept this system going. In addition, the Emergency Department and the OB/GYN Department have separate Electronic Medical Records that cannot communicate with the rest of the hospital. The only solution is to spend millions of dollars for a system that is up to date and will unify all departments. Needless to say, Day Kimball does not have the funds for this upgrade. Covenant will upgrade us to the Epic system, which is regarded as one of the best in the industry. In addition to IT resources, Covenant will provide money to upgrade the buildings. Day Kimball has been able to do the minimum maintenance necessary but has not moved forward on improvements that would cost us millions of dollars.
Through my work across the country, more specifically in the Northeast, I know the other hospitals currently under Covenant. They serve communities that resemble our own. I have worked with the medical leaders of St. Joseph’s in Bangor, Maine, St. Mary’s in Lewiston, Maine and St. Joseph’s in Nashua, New Hampshire. Each hospital meets continually with the Covenant leadership but functions independently and makes their own operational decisions. This allows the freedom and autonomy of local leadership to make decisions that is best for their communities.
Day Kimball would be able to retain its culture and make the right decisions specific to our needs. This is an important distinction that should not be taken lightly. In most mergers that uniqueness is lost, the overseeing company dictates how care is delivered, and the finances drive the entire operation. More often than not, service lines are removed and the hospital is stripped down, not grown. We cannot afford this to happen to Day Kimball. Our community needs more access to specialty care, not less. The leadership of Covenant has a thoughtful process around these issues and we will have the opportunity to provide more than we do now.
No merger is ever perfect. Most are formed out of necessity, secondary to the difficult environment that is healthcare in the U.S. I have little doubt that the affiliation with Covenant will continue the excellent work that has preceded it, allow our hospital to retain its identity, and focus on the aspects of healthcare that are important to our local community.
Steven Wexler, MD
Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine
Day Kimball Hospital
Director, DKH Board of Directors