Hospital leader promotes telemedicine in rural South Dakota
By CAITLYNN PEETZ
Jan. 22, 2018
WAGNER, S.D. (AP) — A prestigious recognition is just the beginning of a national campaign for Bryan Slaba.
Slaba, CEO of Wagner Community Memorial Hospital, was recently announced as the recipient of the American Hospital Association's 2018 Rural Leadership Award for his work to promote telemedicine in rural communities.
And though honored by the recognition, the 10-year veteran of the hospital and Mitchell resident said he plans to use the title as a platform to advocate the efficiency and effectiveness of telemedicine, the Daily Republic reported .
"I am starting to, and hope to, promote this as a true delivery model for rural health care nationwide," Slaba said. "This award is the affirmation that can now act as a springboard to move that forward."
The work he's already done to implement the method, along with overcoming staffing shortages and a rural climate earned him the Rural Leadership Award, chosen from a pool of candidates from 5,000 member hospitals.
In 2009, Slaba helped implement the eEmergency program, which allows hospital staff to simply push a button to activate a camera and connect with a certified physician and critical care nurse team in Sioux Falls who can help them through a visit they might not be sure how to handle.
With a physician shortage across the country, Slaba said the technology allows for health care providers across the state and country to interact and provide the best possible outcomes in any situation.
"There's no shame in hitting that button — they're not saying they can't take care of it, it just takes a team to do this," Slaba said. "It's hard to bring people out to rural areas for work, and it's time to figure out how to adapt and this is one way to do it. In the end, it all comes down to 'I want to make a difference,' and this is making a difference."
Recently, Wagner Community Memorial Hospital became the first rural hospital to begin an eHospitalist service, which works like eEmergency, but deals with chronic illnesses, as opposed to emergencies.
Through his work, Slaba has reduced emergency room costs to the same as 2012, he said.
And within his first five years of taking over as CEO at the hospital, Slaba oversaw two major additions and a renovation project that included laboratory, radiology and outpatient services.
But maybe his proudest accomplishment was assisting the Yankton Sioux Tribe in establishing a dialysis facility that serves more than 20 people each week. Before the project, a handful of tribal members had to travel more than 100 miles for treatment.
Slaba will receive his award during the AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference Feb. 4 through Feb. 7 in Phoenix, Arizona, where he will also present about telemedicine. He also plans to present on rural health care in New Orleans and Chicago in 2018.
Brittany Baron, vice president for patient care service at Wagner Community Memorial Hospital, was a member of the committee that nominated Slaba for the award, and praised his dedication to the Wagner community in her nomination letter.
"Bryan's dedication does not stop at the doors of the hospital, his deep involvement and dedicated leadership in the community has advanced the economic climate, housing opportunities and overall perception and pride in our community," Baron wrote.
But to Slaba, it's his staff that makes his success possible. Without them buying in to his programs and initiatives, none of it would work, he said.
"We've taken a very difficult situation and produced quality health care, and now we can project this to the rest of the country," Slaba said. "We can take what we've done in itty bitty Wagner and really make an impact on the nation."
Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com