Wednesday, August 16, 2017  

Honoring Our Past and Building the Future


Riverside Tappahannock Hospital looks back on fifty years of care
2014 commemorates the 50th anniversary of having a community hospital in our region. At the same time, this year marks the 25th anniversary of this important resource becoming part of the Riverside Health System (RHS). RHS is a not-for-profit, multi hospital system and integrated medical group providing care throughout southeastern Virginia. Providing care for half a century is a noteworthy achievement and worthy of celebration. The ability of Riverside Tappahannock Hospital to meet the growing needs of the people in the region well into the future, however, is even more significant today than when our founders formed the hospital in 1964.

Gas was at 30 cents a gallon, bread at 25 cents a loaf and the average new car cost around $3,000. In national health care news the U.S. Surgeon General reported on the link between smoking and lung cancer.

For people living in the Tappahannock area, including Essex, King and Queen, and King William counties; and the Northern Neck counties of Richmond, Westmoreland, Northumberland and Lancaster, there was also health care news of a more local nature. Supported by an exceptional community-wide effort that raised $100,000 in funds (more than $750,000 in 2014 dollars) and the partnership with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Tidewater Memorial Hospital was constructed and opened.

The hospital initially contained 50 beds and was described in a newspaper article as “sitting on a hill above town” and characterized as a “small, neat facility and the only hospital for at least 45 miles.”

The 1970s: As the 20th century moved on, the world of medicine saw the first vaccines for pneumonia and rubella as well as the first large scale introduction of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). Cancer research was centralized in the National Institutes of Health, and the percentage of women in medical school went from 9 percent as the decade began to more than 25 percent when it ended.

The 1970s were when policy experts began using “health care” and “crisis” in the same sentence and a time of rapidly escalating costs based in part on unexpected expenditures for the Medicare program’s senior citizens.
While all hospitals had concerns about costs and reimbursements as well as an increasingly difficult regulatory environment, smaller rural hospitals had their own unique challenges; these smaller hospitals lacked the negotiating power to get better deals on supplies and equipment. As technology became an even more significant part of health care, smaller hospitals experienced difficulties in accessing this costly equipment. The hospital on the hill, Tidewater Memorial, was no exception to the pressures of healthcare finance.

The 1980s: The health care news of this decade included an announcement by the World Health Organization that smallpox had been eradicated, the implantation of the first artificial heart and the development of vaccines for hepatitis A and B. It was also a period in which the number of individual, free-standing hospitals decreased as larger health care systems increased. And the struggles of smaller rural hospitals continued.

Despite ongoing investments to improve technology and expand the original facility, Tidewater Memorial Hospital was, in the words of a contemporary newspaper report, “sick” without much hope for recovery.
After a period of negotiation, Riverside Health System acquired Tidewater Memorial in 1989 and renamed it Riverside Tappahannock Hospital (RTH). During this time Riverside invested eight million dollars in the facility as part of a major reorganization.
The 1990s: In the last decade of the century and the millennium, the world of health care was progressing rapidly. The Human Genome project set out to identify the more than 100,000 genes in human DNA and the U.S. Congress required packaged foods to include standardized labels and serving sizes. An effective vaccine for lyme disease was developed and radiosurgery (sometimes called “knifeless” or “bloodless” surgery) gained wider use.

Closer to home, Riverside continued to invest in diagnostic technology at RTH – including the purchase of a new CT scanner and mobile MRI equipment – as well as in renovations of the hospital and its grounds. The 1990s also saw an expansion of the Emergency Department, the establishment of a cardiac program, the addition of the Infusion Center located within the hospital, and other new partnerships including the Virginia Cancer Institute.
The 2000s: It’s the 21st century now and its first decade saw the explosion of health information technology and its role in everything from patient education and better communications between health care providers to advancements in research and greater efficiency for a wide range of medical processes and procedures.

The 2000s were also a time when cancer therapies become more targeted, microsurgeries and less-invasive procedures help reduce recovery times and the human genome was successfully mapped years sooner than expected.
At Riverside Tappahannock Hospital it was a decade of continued change and growth that includes the initial development of telemedicine services that linked specialists from Riverside Regional Medical Center and other major facilities with physicians and their patients at RTH. As part of Riverside’s statewide leading role as a provider of residential as well as health services to older adults, the decade also saw the opening of Magnolia Manor at the Orchard, an assisted living community and Dogwood Manor, a skilled nursing facility. The once mobile MRI was replaced with a new permanent unit, the Intensive Care Unit was expanded and a range of outpatient services and facilities were introduced in the areas of physical therapy and urgent care while primary care and specialty physician practice locations expanded throughout the Northern Neck and surrounding regions under the Riverside Medical Group umbrella.
The 2010s and Beyond: The second decade of the 21st century, still less than half over, sets the pace for the ongoing use of new technologies that advance medicine, patient outcomes and convenience across a wide area. As part of this advancement and as an integral component of the Riverside Telemedicine Network, RTH continues expanding its programs to include Telestroke as well as dermatology, wound care, pediatric emergencies, sleep studies, pulmonary, and other specialty areas.

In addition to programs and new technologies that improve access to care, the past few years have also seen the emergence of the Riverside Care Difference, a commitment on the part of Riverside staff to “… care for others as we would care for those we love.”

While predicting the future has its challenges, it’s reasonable to project the remainder of the 2010s as a time with increasing financial pressures and growth built on hospital-community partnerships, including the current capital campaign to convert shared patient rooms to all-private rooms, will be part of re-shaping the hospital. It will also be a time when RTH takes its place within a wider health care transformation from a focus on treating sickness to one on supporting and enhancing health.

With 2014 marking both a 50th and 25th anniversary for the hospital, it’s a good time to look back on the past while looking forward to the future.

We invite you to join us at RTH 
on May 3 from 
1pm to 3pm as we celebrate the 
legacy of health care in our 
community and 
Riverside’s continued commitment 
to improving health and quality of life.