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St. Joseph's in Syracuse collaborating with Lewis County General Hospital

St. Joseph's Hospital
St. Joseph's in Syracuse is working with the Lewis County General Hospital to increase health services to rural areas.

Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse is expanding it’s relationship with a North Country hospital. Agreements like the one between St. Joe’s and the Lewis County General Hospital could be the wave of future health care in more rural areas of New York state.

The agreement between the two hospitals will bring a number of resources from St. Joe’s to the Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, according to Mark Murphy, senior vice president for system development at St. Joe’s. He says the deal focuses on primary care access in the community, specifically home care, ambulatory care, and behavioral Health services, like mental health, which can be in short supply in rural communities. He says the bottom line is to keep services local.

“Health care is best provided in the communities in which people live," Murphy said. "Especially if you are looking at proactive behavioral health and ambulatory care services. Patients shouldn’t have to travel for those services.”

Murphy explains how it would work for someone who might need psychiatric services.

“Primary care doctors identify patients who need the services of a psychologist or psychiatrist," Murphy explained. "There isn’t one available in the community. But using tele-medicine, we schedule a visit in that primary care office with that psychiatrist here at St. Joe’s Hospital, and the consult happens in the physician's office in Lewis County while the physician is here at St. Joseph’s Hospital.”

He says primary care doctors are at the center of this collaboration, and expects to see more of these kinds of consolidations between big medical centers and smaller hospitals in the future.

“Some of the pressures with in the health care system are generating more of these discussions to happen," Murphy said. "How can we provide access to services without incurring additional and significant overhead and administrative cost, and partnerships and afflictions is one way to do that.”

Murphy says it’s also easier now more than ever to allow resources at an urban hospital like Saint Joe’s to be used in rural settings.

"Electronic medical records, teleconferencing and telecommunication are strategies that we need to fully explore for some of these more distant, rural hospitals in order to support them,” he said.

Murphy says the affiliation could make a rural county like Lewis more attractive for new family practice physicians, who often don’t want to practice in a rural area because of the lack of support services.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.