At a recent county commission meeting, Pershing General Hospital Patty Bianchi said the facility is in good financial health and is operating in the black. Medical equipment and technology upgrades are underway to modernize and expand out-patient services and in-patient care.

“We’ve been able to maintain our $1.5 million reserve while conducting business out of our operations account,” Bianci told county leaders. “That includes replacing equipment such as hoyer lifts, purchasing new beds for long-term care, a new lab chemistry analyzer and telemetry unit. All of these items are expensive but we’ve been able to pay cash which is something new to Pershing General Hospital.”

Recruiting health professionals is a challenge for rural areas so the hospital will try a “grow your own” approach with tuition assistance for residents who agree to come back and work for PGH, Bianci said.

“We’re going to offer some tuition assistance to employees who have been enrolled in nursing school because in rural, frontier medicine it’s almost impossible to recruit these days, ” she explained. “We also have two employees enrolled to become medical technologists which is almost a harder position to fill than nurses and physicians.”

One hospital employee is studying to be a paramedic and another is enrolled in an APN (Advanced Practice Nurse) program in the field of psychiatry who also plans to work for PGH, Bianci said.

“She’ll come back and practice in our clinic and she’ll do an additional year to be able to oversee our family practice,” she said. “That’s a current employee who has lived here all her life and is not going anywhere so she will not leave us, we hope.”

A local teen about to graduate from Lovelock High School intends to enter the medical field and return to work in her home town but she will also need help with college tuition, Bianchi said.

“In May, I’ll be coming to you with a letter of support for a young lady who’s enrolling in the physician assistant program,” she said. “She wants to come back but will need our help to get into the school.”

Bianchi said doctor recruitment at PGH is “extremely difficult.” A resident physician recently left PGH for a hospital in another rural community thanks to the 68 percent increase in salary and benefits.

“We keep trying everyday to find somebody,” she said of ongoing attempts to attract physicians.

Organ donation awards

PGH received two awards for the number of local organ donations and overall organ donor recruitment according to Bianci. The hospital is the Nevada Donor Network’s 2016 “Hospital Partner of the Year” for timely and consistent notification of potential organ and tissue donations by deceased patients.

“We received this award because 100 percent of the time, we contacted them within the one hour time frame that we have after a person passed who may be a potential (organ) donor,” Bianchi explained.

PGH earned the bronze award in the National Hospital Organ Donation Campaign “for encouraging hospital staff and community members to enroll in their state registry as organ, eye and tissue donors.”

Bianchi told county leaders the 2016 awards were notable achievements for the rural medical facility.

“While we may be small and rural, we are committed to quality and delivering the best care we can,” she said recently. “We’ve received a bronze level award from Nevada Donor Network. One of the highly regulated things we have to participate in is the Donor Network.”

The non-profit agency specializes in collection and distribution of organs, eyes and tissues and is part of an alliance of state and national groups that include Donate Life Nevada and Donate Life America.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of 50 or more people with tissue and eye donation according to the Donate Life Nevada website. There’s a “severe shortage” of donated organs and tissues that include corneas, bones, skin, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and veins.

According to the Donate Life Nevada website, in 2016 there are 557 Nevadans in need of lifesaving transplants including heart, kidney, pancreas, lung or more than one of these organs. More than 41 percent of Nevadans are already registered organ donors. Many register when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses or ID cards at the DMV. A red heart on the license indicates organ donor status.

Registered organs donors are screened for medical suitability at the time of death. The families of non-registered but potential organ and tissue donors, including those under 18 years of age, may be asked to make the decision at the time of death.

“If you do not make the decision to become a donor (before death), your family will be asked to make it on your behalf,” the Donate Life Nevada website states. “It is important to talk with your loved ones about donation so they can honor your wishes at the time of your death.”