Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Care Becomes Top Priority

The May “Michigan Telehealth” newsletter reports that the Rural Health Center on Beaver Island provides both primary and urgent care to the 600 year round residents and to 4,000 summer residents and visitors. Situated on Lake Michigan 32 miles off the mainland, the island is accessible only by over a two hour ferry ride or by plane. During the winter months, air travel is the only option and that depends heavily on the weather.

The health center is staffed 24/7 by two mid-level practitioners who are supervised by two physicians on the mainland at the Charlevoix Area Hospital. Technology is used as an important link in order to provide for emergency triage of patients, telemedicine consultations, and diagnostic services. Three years ago, the Rural Health Center partnered with the Hospital and pursued new video conferencing and digital imaging equipment through the USDA Rural Utilities Services grant program.

“The recreational visitors are our riskiest patients,” reports Donna Kubic, RN, Managing Director. “They come here to bike, kayak, and hike, and with all of those activities sometimes accidents result.” The number of retirees makes it necessary to also link to the emergency department in Charlevoix. On an urgent bias, telemedicine is used two to three times per week during the winter months and four to five times per week during the busy summer months.

In addition, the video conferencing system has become a valuable tool for the island community. For example, a cancer support group connects with a similar group on the mainland, emergency personnel have been able to receive training and certification, and the fire department has had 21 volunteers complete year long first responder certification courses over the past two years. A paramedic certification course, and air transportation certification is planned for the near future.

For more information, contact Editor Sally Davis at