The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce held their annual banquet Tuesday evening, welcoming hospital officials from El Dorado and elsewhere to deliver a keynote address. Community leaders, nonprofits and chamber ambassadors also were recognized at the banquet.
Destination health care
The banquet highlighted recent expansions and partnerships at the Medical Center of South Arkansas. The keynote speakers delivered their address in a town hall format, answering pre-written as well as audience questions about the state of health care in El Dorado.
The speakers were Scott Street, chief executive officer at the Medical Center of South Arkansas; Dr. Robert Steele, a pediatrician and chief strategy officer for Arkansas Children’s Hospital; Dr. Bruce Murphy, co-founder of Arkansas Heart Hospital; and Jon Tryggestad, founder and CEO of TVG Capital and Landmark Cancer Centers.
“One year ago, we met with a number of key stakeholders, many of you in this room tonight, that work with us to come up with a plan for the future,” Street said. “With input from these individuals and entities, we cast a vision for the future, and that vision is destination health care. And we are all well underway, living this vision and making this vision real for the future.”
MCSA took the opportunity to announce campus expansions, including a new partnership with Landmark Cancer Centers to open a cancer center at the hospital.
In November, MCSA announced that they would be joining Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Nursery Alliance to elevate neonatal care for the region’s newborns. Last year, a partnership with the Arkansas Heart Hospital was announced, along with plans to recruit cardiologists to the area and better meet the health needs of the community.
“When you ask what’s important – it’s a big job to treat something, in many cases, not just cancer care, but the surgical cases, cardiology – you need everybody on board,” Tryggestad said.
Steele said that with El Dorado being surrounded by more rural communities, it is important to have a good, comprehensive health care system in place for those who are unable to reach Little Rock or other health care providers; the other executives agreed, attributing their partnerships with MCSA to that goal.
“You don’t have that opportunity to wait the four to six hour transfer time – not just the two to four hour transportation time, but the transfer time – to get to a big city hospital,” Murphy said. “So it behooves the state to make an investment here and that’s why we’re interested in making sure that we’ve got top cardiologists here that can do that.”
Murphy went on to say that having comprehensive health care is one of three key economic drivers for a rural community, alongside good public schools and strong public safety.
“For every dollar that a local hospital spends, that generates about $2.30 in additional spending in the community,” Steele said. “The alliances and the expansion of capabilities will bring in more than simply a doctor or a nurse, it brings in all the other business that is required to support those families that move here and those types of things. There’s a natural economic development to that.”
Tryggestad said keeping cancer patients at home will be one advantage of having a cancer center in El Dorado; rather than being treated in Little Rock, they will be able to undergo traditional cancer treatments at the center and then return to their own homes.
When asked what changes the speakers saw on the horizon for health care, Murphy cited three advancements that are in their beginning stages and will continue to be realized as time passes.
The first was the transfer of diagnoses to patients, meaning the ability patients now have to use the internet and other technological resources to better understand their own health. The second was the use of stem cells, which have made recent advancements in the fields of organ regeneration and immune health.
Finally, Murphy said he is excited about human longevity. He said everyone there at the banquet could live to be at least 100, if not longer.
“Young people should have the expectancy to be 120 to 150. There are scientists today that believe the first person to live to be 1,000 years old has already been born,” Murphy said.
Steele said that with the price of health care rising consistently throughout the country, prices are becoming unsustainable and hospital CEOs must be held accountable. He said he would like to see a shift toward outcome-based pricing.
“I personally would prefer to be paid for great outcomes rather than just simply coming to see me,” Steele said. “It’s exciting because as we make that transition … we become increasingly accountable for those outcomes, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Moving forward, Street said there are several other new initiatives MCSA has plans for. One audience member asked how MCSA could address the opioid crisis in Union County and Street answered that the hospital has begun a medical withdrawal management program and hopes to have an in-patient behavioral health center soon.
Street said MCSA also hopes to add psychiatric resources within the next year. Bariatric surgery, behavioral health and an intensive cardiac rehabilitation center will be added to MCSA’s services this year. MCSA officials also are finalizing the return of Area Health Education Centers, a residency program for physicians.
“The true purpose is to keep you and I home for a lot more services than we have today,” Street concluded.
The annual banquet also was an opportunity to recognize area individuals and organizations for their contributions.
Jaren Books recognized the chamber’s 2018 ambassadors, which included Tyler Turner, Karen Langston, Janelle Williams, V Pennington, Dianne Hammond and Jared Smith.
Williams was named Ambassador of the Year for her assistance to the chamber. Books said she was instrumental in behind the scenes event planning and decorating.
“It’s great to work with the Chamber of Commerce and all of y’all out there. We’re looking for new chamber ambassadors, and I see a whole room full of them,” Williams said to laughter.
Scott Walker, market president at First Financial Bank, presented the award for Nonprofit Excellence. First Financial produced video essays highlighting three nonprofit finalists and the work they do, which were shown at the banquet.
The three finalists were Camp Fire El Dorado, the Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado and Helping Hands Food Pantry. Helping Hands Food Pantry was selected as the overall winner. Helping Hands was awarded $5,000 from First Financial Bank, while Camp Fire and the Boys & Girls Club each received $2,500.
“In the state of Arkansas, there are nearly 200,000 children that go to bed at night not knowing where their next meal will come from. There are over 9,000 of those children in Union County,” EJ Daugherty said in the video. “When we see families coming through here with little kids, it makes you feel good, because you know this kid knows where his next meal is coming from.”
Since the award began to be handed out in 2009, 22 nonprofit organizations have received over $72,000 from First Financial Bank.
The 2018 chamber chairwoman Christy Gunter turned the reins over to 2019 Chamber chairman Trey Clark. Clark said he is excited to take on the role and help existing businesses, as well as recruit new ones in El Dorado.
“I moved here five years ago with (my wife) and our family of six, and we were immediately overwhelmed with how much this city had to offer. … Not only is there quantity, but there’s quality – quality of life,” Clark said. “When our businesses are strong, our quality of life is better. It’s already good in a lot of ways, but the chamber is here to be working to keep making it better.”
'A Lasting Impression'
Former chamber CEO and President Mike Dumas was recognized for his service to the community with a special gift. Dumas stepped down from his position at the chamber last month as new chamber President Bill Luther stepped in.
Luther touted Dumas’ accomplishments, jokingly comparing himself in a negative light to Dumas.
“I am humbled and honored to follow Mike Dumas as your next president and CEO. I run the chamber, but there’s no way I could replace Mike Dumas. Mike has a face for television, a voice made for radio; I have a face made for radio … and a voice as smooth as a coyote with laryngitis,” Luther said to big laughs. “Mike, thank you, from this county, this city and the chamber.”
Dumas was presented with a book filled with notes of gratitude and photos of him around town. The book was entitled “A Lasting Impression.”
In the first quarter of 2019, Union County gained 120 new jobs and over $82 million in investments; existing industry expansions brought 68 new jobs and $78 million in investments, according to literature distributed at the banquet.Gallery: Chamber Banquet
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.