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Teton Valley Health: Where Everyone Matters

Keith Gnagey
Keith Gnagey, TVHC CEO

What do you think about healthcare in our valley?  If we can agree that personal health is ranked among the top 3 most important life assets, then let’s take some time to focus on what we have, what we want, and what we need to feel better and be better.

From the very beginning, our residents have been instrumental in leading the direction of our hospital and clinics. At key turning points, our organization has asked for community guidance and we’ve followed through on many of your recommendations such as expanded medical specialties and the removal of our hospital from taxpayer support.

During several public forums in 2013, it was clear that ourvalley wanted easier access to centers of medical excellence. Five years later,Teton Valley Health offers a robust selection of providers who represent the level of care you’ve requested.  Our affiliation with University of Utah Health has brought around-the-clock telestroke and teleburn experts to your side when you need them.  Our partnership with Intermountain HealthCare’s telehealth program provides real-time contact between patients and their families with renowned oncologists. We’ve added cardiologists, dermatologists, pain management, general and plastic surgery, aesthetics, and pulmonology to our list of services, too.

More changes are coming. We’re bringing all of our patient billing services in-house by mid-December, and we’re making it easier for you to meet face-to-face with our patient representatives to review bills and discuss financial options. We’ve launched our new Community Assistance Program and re-designed sliding-fee scale to help make your medical care more affordable. (For further information about our financial aid program, call (208) 354-6331). We’re responding to your requests for better clinic access by offering an online portal to handle prescription refills, lab results,appointment requests, and provide a line of communication with your provider.

We’ve hosted events such as informational forums presented by Dr. Michael Wine and other medical professionals, discounted lab draws and carotid artery screenings, and our popular Brake for Breakfast giveaway. We also sponsor fun community happenings including Music on Main, Wydaho Rendezvous Teton Bike Festival, and the inaugural Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.

Our most recent patient survey results show a steady trend of high patient satisfaction with TVH’s delivery of care. We also appreciate our designation as Business of the Year, as awarded in October after a Teton Valley News Readers’ Choice vote.

We know there’s always room for improvement. Please continue to share your ideas, concerns, and questions with us by emailing info@tvhcare.org. Get up to date on TVH medical staff, services, and programs by reviewing our website or by calling (208) 354-6301 to schedule a tour of our facility.

By being responsive to your concerns, we believe we can better serve everyone who lives, works, and plays in Teton Valley. We know that you expect to receive skilled medical care anytime you visit a hospital or clinic. It’s our mandate to offer extraordinary care and ensure that your experience with us supports our motto: Where Everyone Matters.

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Doc Talk: Don’t miss your shot

Ellen MacKinnon, MS, RN, AGCNS-BC, Director of nursing

Every autumn, we hear warnings from healthcare organizations and cautionary stories in the media about influenza season. It would be delightful to announce that there won’t be any flu cases this year but we all know that’s not true. In fact, Teton Valley Health has already confirmed 3 positive cases of Influenza Type A with laboratory testing. We’re off to an early start this year so let’s help protect each other by being proactive.

Teton Valley Health supports recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control that encourage everyone 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated. This year’s vaccine has been altered to better meet the current strains that are circulating throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Even if the virus “drifts” into different strains, vaccinations still produce antibodies that can repel flu or shorten the recovery time. 

There are two general vaccination protections available: trivalent and quadrivalent. Trivalent doses focus on three types of influenza strains. Quadrivalent vaccines are composed to repel four flu lineages. Teton Valley Health offers quadrivalent immunizations in both injectable and nasal mist applications. High dosage shots are recommended for older people and people who are more vulnerable to attacks on their immune systems. Children between 6 months and 8 years who’ve never had a flu shot or have only had one vaccination may need to be given 2 doses spaced at least 4 weeks apart.

Immunizations are proven to give the best protection against the flu. Additional common-sense habits are also very important such as frequent, thorough hand-washing, staying home if you’re sick, and avoiding crowded indoor events. It’s also important to know that flu antiviral drugs can significantly shorten the severity of the infection if taken within 48 hours of symptoms.

Remember, people with the flu are most contagious in the first 3 – 4 days after they become ill. Sometimes, the contagious stage begins one day before symptoms begin, which is really sneaky and unfair. Complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma. It’s estimated that in the U.S. last year, over 70,000 people died from the effects of influenza.

Most insurances cover the costs of flu shots. If you don’t have coverage, you may be eligible for assistance to get an immunization for yourself and your family. Teton Valley Health offers a Community Assistance Program to help people afford appropriate medical care, and Driggs and Victor Clinics also offer sliding fee scale pricing. Call (208) 354-6331 for more information about financial assistance.

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Up in Smoke – Tips for staying healthy during wildfire season

Dr. James Pohl

James Pohl, MD, FCCP

Pacific Northwest fires have drawn attention to our fragility and susceptibility to alteration in something as basic as our air supply. Contaminants vary from event to event and our vulnerability varies from person to person. It’s safe to assume that toxicity, density, and length of exposure to the contaminant increases medical risk factors in direct relation to the health status of the person breathing the air.

Typically, a forest fire produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic material, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and thousands of other compounds depending on the uniqueness of the burning matter and surrounding conditions. The toxic effects of all dissipate with wind and weather but as we all witnessed lately the elements can still deliver sufficient toxic amounts to cause problems that are very real.

All of us probably experienced the obvious irritating effects of the elements in the air. External eye irritation and redness and perhaps a runny nose reflect the local inflammatory response to these agents in ambient air. As in all medical matters, if there are pre-existing conditions affecting eyes or nasal passages, the smoke will make them worse and require medical attention, but the vast majority of people simply have to put up with it.

The effects can be more serious if the exposure is more intense or prolonged or involves an individual whose health is compromised by acute or chronic unrelated conditions. The most obvious example would be individuals with heart and lung disease. The ability to breath easily and effectively is most imperative in these individuals. If their “work of breathing” is increased, or their ability to oxygenate or ventilate is compromised by irritation of upper and lower airways, things can get out of hand quickly and require timely intervention by medically trained individuals. It’s safe to say that any patient with substantial heart or lung ailment is at risk, i.e. not just asthmatics or coronary artery disease patients.

So how do we address this problem?

  • Anticipate. Check weather reports and Air Quality Indices when fires are ongoing.
  • Prepare. Make contingency plans to avoid pollutants. Stay indoors as much as possible with air filters in place. Do not plan prolonged exercise outdoors until the Air Quality Index allows.
  • Be practical. If you cannot avoid exposure, wear a mask. To be effective, the mask has to fit proper and it must be designed to filter out particulate matter and fumes and gasses. The P95 mask is appropriate.
  • Be careful. If you have chronic lung or heart disease do not forget your meds or oxygen if prescribed.
  • Be smart. If you experience increased cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or sputum production call your Healthcare Provider and avoid more serious problems that can be avoided.

Dr. James Pohl offers care in pulmonology and sleep disorder at Driggs Health Clinic. He’s now accepting new patients. Please call (208) 354-2302 to make an appointment.

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