Health care is expensive, especially when it comes to life-saving surgeries for patients suffering the effects of obesity. Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, Georgia, is making bariatric-related surgeries more affordable for its employees as a long-term investment
Colquitt Regional has promoted the long-term health of its employees since 2012, when it hired its first Director of Corporate Health, who promotes healthy lifestyles through exercise and nutrition programs for employees. Jim Matney, CEO, said this is a crucial part of their vision for the hospital.
“The thought is that healthier employees show up for work,” he said. “They tend to be more creative and dedicated, so that kind of goes along with why we are discounting our bariatric procedures because that is something we believe will help people and change their lifestyles.”
An employee needs to be on the hospital’s insurance plan to qualify for affordable procedures. Several employees have already utilized this program, such as Wendy Wyatt, who is a registered nurse in the recovery room.
Wyatt, who has been at Colquitt Regional for four years, had the sleeve gastrectomy in July of last year. She, like others before her, reached a point in her life when she needed to make a serious change.
“I had struggled with my weight pretty much my whole life,” Wyatt said. “I tried the fad diets and exercise. I was beginning to show signs of early diabetes, so I decided it was time.”
Wyatt said that the hospital made the program well known, and she decided to sign up for it. Being an employee at the hospital had another added bonus: She already knew her doctor well.
Dr. Amber Holt, who has worked for Colquitt Regional for six years, was the assigned doctor on Wyatt’s case. She eased any of Wyatt’s worries before the procedure because they work together often. According to Dr. Holt, it is not unusual for a doctor to do this type of procedure on a fellow employee at Colquitt Regional.
“We are a small regional hospital, so I know most of the folks who work here,” she said. “Wendy happens to be the nurse in the recovery rooms, so I see her every day.
“What it (bariatric surgery) has done, aside from changing lives, is really give patients the freedom to come off their diabetic and hypertensive medications,” Holt said. “So it has really allowed them to achieve not just the weight loss, but real improvement in their health when they became more affordable to insure.”
Not only that, but the long-term benefits are crucial too. Matney explained that at the start of the program in 2012, the percentage of employees who had two or more health risk factors was up to 39 percent. Now, averaging 25 employees utilizing affordable bariatric procedures a year, that percentage has gone down to 26 percent. According to Matney, employees starting the program have baseline labs taken – including measuring BMI, blood sugar, and cholesterol – with retests done a year later to mark any improvements.
It has also benefited health care as a whole in Colquitt County.
“Since we started the program of corporate wellness, we have reduced overall health care costs by over $1 million in one year for the hospital and Colquitt County,” Matney said.
The hospital recently received accreditation from the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program, which deems them a center of excellence for bariatric surgery.
“What that does is give you external recognition that you are meeting the top tier as it relates to quality and outcomes,” Matney said. “It gives the public assurance that it isn’t just about how good we think we are, but as an external evaluation of what that agency thinks we do.
Every department in the hospital has some form of fitness opportunity. Employees can have exercise breaks when their schedules allow and attend wellness programs to promote healthy eating for diabetes control. There are even plans for a new 5,000 square foot gym on campus.
“Why we do it: (1) We want employees to be healthy, (2) employees utilize less health care, and (3) it keeps people healthier longer,” Matney said. “That is why we are out there in the forefront to cover bariatric procedures for employees.”