Humility of Mary Health Partners: Living the Mission
The mission of the St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown, Ohio is to provide care for the poor and underserved. One example of the hospital’s level of commitment is the Dental Residency program and clinic, which provided care last year for 5,001 patients and 7,713 visits. Forty-five percent of these patients had Medicaid, however, 55 percent of the patients had no form of health insurance or were on a sliding fee scale.
The clinic is led by Frank Beck, DDS: “We provide comprehensive care for patients. We’re the safety net for the safety net.” Dr. Beck is a graduate of Ohio State University and has been practicing dentistry for over 25 years. Other staff at the dental clinic include twelve faculty members, eight general dentists and four oral maxillofacial surgeons; five dental residents, one part-time dental hygienist, and six full-time dental assistants. Since the dental residency program’s approval at St. Elizabeth’s in 1974, over 120 dentists have been trained for professional careers. Like Dr. Beck, other graduates have returned to help staff the clinic, helping ensure residency program and clinic continuity in meeting the hospital’s mission.
St. Elizabeth also sponsors a mobile dental van with two operatories staffed by dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistant and driver. Last year, St. Elizabeth saw 1,260 patients on the van. Major sites for the van are local schools and nursing homes. Nancy Lesniewski, clinic manager reports that the mobile van served 16 schools, 8 nursing homes, and several community health fairs last year.
Technology is integral to the dental clinic at St. Elizabeth's. Practice management software and digital radiography have been recently added. Electronic medical records will be implemented in the first quarter of 2009. Efficiencies from these advancese should be evident by mid-2009.
Despite these efforts, the need for dental care in the community is a growing public health problem throughout the Mahoning Valley. As illustrated in the map, the unmet need for dental care is expanding. In the last year, dental visits were the number one encounter among low acuity visits in the emergency room. With St. Elizabeth a designated JACHO stroke center and a Level I trauma center, greater efforts are needed to re-route dental patients from the emergency room.