It's a people thing Featured

9:32am EDT July 22, 2002

You may think that, at the end of the day, saving lives and caring for the sick would be enough for the staff at Parma Community General Hospital (PCGH).

But the real end goal, as Tom Selden, president and CEO of PCGH says, is "to provide access to affordable, quality health care to everyone in need of our service."

So it should come as no surprise that the doctors, nurses and other staff members don't seem to mind the constant busman's holiday of free clinics, health fairs and immunizations within the walls of the hospital and in the streets of their community. They enjoy it so much that the hospital uses their commitment to the community as an advertising slogan.

One example of the commitment to giving back is the Parma Health Ministry, a free clinic available to poverty-level residents of the Parma and North Royalton school districts. Patients have been treated there by volunteer physicians for everything from a cold to breast cancer, with supplies donated by PCGH. Last year, staff members donated 400 hours to 324 patients with the help of $256,000 from PCGH.

"There are a limited number of places that do this," Selden says. "We have a very giving population here at the hospital and employees take that extra step to go out and help people."

When the staff isn't volunteering at the hospital, it takes the show on the road. Health fairs at senior centers and high schools and immunization programs and blood drives raise awareness and promote disease prevention. The results have been staggering: 6,350 residents have been immunized against influenza and 2,500 against pneumonia in the last three years. In 1999 alone, staff participated in 48 speaking engagements to audiences ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens on topics from diabetes to stress management.

"Awareness is a key element to solving the health problems of a community," says Selden.

PCGH's health fairs tackle everything from the needs of pregnant women to senior health concerns. Selden emphasizes the importance of outreach programs and says they have been extremely successful in educating the community and detecting early stage health problems.

"Invariably we find that in 3 percent to 8 percent of the population, we discover something that needs treated," he says.

PCGH doesn't stop at providing affordable -- often free -- health care and education. For the past several years, employees have donated food to the Northcoast Harvest Food Bank and provided about 100 meals a day at cost to the Meals-on-Wheels program in Parma, Parma Heights, Seven Hills and North Royalton.

Employees also work with area high schools to offer observation and vocational training. Other programs include Take our Daughters to Work Day and an intergenerational penpal program between patients at ElderCenter South, an adult day care facility, and students in the Brecksville school district.

For the past three years, PCGH has been the top contributing hospital to the Alzheimer's Association's annual fund-raising campaign. In the past two years, 115 PCGH employees and members of the hospital's Breast Cancer Support Group, friends and family participated in the Race for the Cure. More than 100 employees and family members have raised money and awareness at the annual American Heart Association's Heart Walk, while the surgery department has raised $2,500 through raffles and other activities.

Selden says that fund-raising for these causes furthers PCGH's goal.

"(We do) anything we can do to contribute to the health of the community," he says.

Selden explains all the time and effort given by PCGH employees inside and outside of the hospital this way: "Our goal is to have the healthiest community in Ohio."

But, it's possible that, if Selden and the hospital get what they wish for, some of them may be out of a job. Selden's response to the risk of putting themselves out of business?

"That's OK." How to reach: Parma Community General Hospital, (440) 743-3000

Kim Palmer (kpalmer@sbnnet.com) is associate editor at SBN.