Saline Health Comittee Meetings Gain Attendance

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Gail Swenson was one of the last nurses to walk out of Saline Hospital when it closed in 2015. Half a decade after that, the Lodi resident is back to help her community find a long sought-after replacement not just for Saline, but for the entirety of southern Washtenaw County. Swenson did that by providing feedback to Saline’s healthcare committee, when it met Monday evening, to discuss strategy on how to bring more healthcare options to southern Washtenaw County.

“I would really like to see a freestanding ER. An urgent care would be nice, but we need a freestanding ER,” Swenson said.

The initial data is trickling in from Saline’s community survey, assessing who needs what where in Saline first. Everything is on the table for what Saline might ultimately choose to try to attract to town – from an emergency room, to mental health services, to small scale medical specialists.

The survey is still open and will continue to take results until July 31. It will soon be followed up by a much larger survey this winter to gain perspective from communities as far away as Manchester, who of course are even further isolated from the main hospitals in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Establishing Saline as a medical center by including data from those communities to any perspective healthcare operation has been the plan from day one. Apart from those rural townships needing better healthcare accesses even more than Saline, the thinking goes that by collecting data to present to perspective healthcare providers as a bulk, it would make establishing their next health campus in Saline’s centralized location all the more attractive.

Krause said that what the committee really needs is to get as much involvement as possible from the community, especially from people involved in healthcare. One resident helping is Jeff Shier an engineer who is helping process the data, and presented the initial findings to the committee.

You can take the survey online, but a significant part of the June 28 meeting was on how to get the survey to as many people as possible. City Councilor Dawn Krause expressed her gratitude for attendees helping brainstorm ideas like utilizing social media, teaming up with local clergy and providing surveys at the Salt Summer Sounds concerts every Thursday.

Reaching out to more people is also an incomplete goal for the committee. According to Shier’s presentation, none of the 170 or so respondents to Saline’s survey so far are in the 18 to 24 age group.

Part of a presentation created by Jeff Shier.

Over half of the respondents so far said that their biggest healthcare options are too far away, whereas 37.78 percent said that their healthcare provider wasn’t present at all, and 20 percent said that healthcare options were too expensive.

Part of a presentation created by Jeff Shier.

When asked to answer all that apply, in the survey question assessing wanted healthcare services, nearly 90 percent of respondents have said that they want an urgent care in the city, and almost two thirds also said they wanted an emergency room. About three quarters of people wanted lab work in the city.

Part of a presentation created by Jeff Shier.

“I like that so far on the surveys that people are thinking about being concerned that underrepresented populations get the survey, which we are doing. But it’s nice that community members acknowledged that and that’s getting taken care of. That surprised me and made me happy,” Kerstin Woodside, the liaison for Saline’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, said.

Krause, who is chairing the committee, told the meeting that she had gotten an email from the president of at least one healthcare provider that his firm would be interested in moving to Saline. Krause declined to share that email with the Sun Times News.

Anyone is welcome to attend the next meeting at 7 p.m. on July 26.

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Another excellent article from a very talented journalist. From the meeting's end, in less than 3 hours to print, you truly captured the importance and essence of what this dire situation represents to the entire Saline regional area citizens. Thank you.

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