Health: More going on than Ebola

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 3, 2015

By Courtney Patterson

When looking back over the past year in health, many may only remember the Ebola scare, but 2014 was a big year. From new facilities and scary illnesses to recovery centers and more health opportunities, Pike County has seen many changes and improvements in health.


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Several changes have been made to the Medicaid program throughout 2014. In January, Gov. Robert Bentley defended his decision to not expand the state Medicaid program. He chose to focus on economic growth through better education and more jobs. In April 2014, the legislation that was passed in May 2013 was amended. Alabama passed legislation authorizing Regional Care Organizations to provide benefits to Medicaid beneficiaries. An RCO is a healthcare provider that would contract with Medicaid to provide services. This change would essentially improve care and slow down the rate of cost increases. The requirements for the RCOs are to only serve Medicaid beneficiaries and they will not be deemed as an insurance company under state law. According to Teresa Grimes, Troy Regional Medical Center CEO, the RCOs will manage Medicaid patient care and payments. Therefore, the Medicaid budget will be better managed.

New Wellness Center

Troy Parks and Recreation opened the new Health and Wellness Fitness Center in April. It was packed with the newest fitness equipment so that members can use top quality equipment.

“We have been very thankful over the years to provide many facilities and opportunities for the youth of Troy, but the new fitness center truly gives the adults and seniors more exercise options than ever before,” said Dan Smith, director of Troy Parks and Recreation. “We have been very pleased with the response from the community, but more importantly the success stories we are hearing. There have been so many adults and seniors that have shared with us how much better they feel, how ladies have lost multiple dress sizes, and more. In addition to increase physical fitness, there is also the element of seeing friends and meeting new ones through socializing and interaction at our fitness center. Whether it be the youth, adults or seniors, we want the people of Troy to be active, and we want to offer them a variety of opportunities to do so. We believe the fitness center is a great place for someone to get on the right track to a new plan for physical and mental fitness.”

TRMC and SAMC Affiliation

Troy Regional Medical Center joined forces with Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan this June with a clinical affiliation. This means more healthcare options for patients and access to more clinical specialties that may not be currently available in Pike County.

“For 45 years, Troy Regional Medical Center has been committed to providing residents with quality healthcare,” Grimes said. “It is this commitment that drives TRMC to seek new and innovative ways to deliver additional healthcare opportunities in Troy. This clinical association with Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) offers the Pike County community convenient access to more medical specialists. Currently, two SAMC owned medical groups, NeuroSpine and Urological Associates, have offices on the TRMC campus with more specialties opening in 2015. Healthy relationships mean stronger local hospitals providing healthcare where and when it’s needed. And that means a healthier future for all of us.”

Alabama Trauma Communication Center

The Alabama Trauma Communication Center went live in August. According to Anna Lowery, quality and education director at TRMC, this will give all hospitals and first responders quicker access to specialty care as needed.

“TRMC has already seen the benefit that this trauma system has provided our patients,” Lowery said.

Mystery Illness

In early September, a mystery illness began to spread, and two cases of it were found in children in Alabama. One case was in Mobile and the other was in North Alabama. It was a rare respiratory disease that local doctors cautioned parents to look for. The symptoms varied from mild respiratory, fever, rash to neurological illness. The NRP reported that no one died from the illness.


Although it was not likely for Ebola to strike Pike County, Troy Regional Medical Center did everything to prepare for an outbreak this past October.

“The threat of Ebola was probably the biggest issue TRMC faced in 2014,” Lowery said.

The staff trained and retrained on emergency procedures, medical equipment was installed in order to create a safe room in minutes, supplies were brought in and intake personnel were trained to screen patients and be able to identify potential Ebola patients. TRMC took every precaution necessary in order to prepare for an event that had a very low possibility of occurring. Soon enough, a woman in Montgomery was having Ebola-like symptoms, coming closer to home than was every expected. TRMC was overly and readily prepared.

“This was an educational process for all involved with the outcome being a policy and procedure in place if an Ebola incident occurs,” Lowery said.

Medical Detox Unit

TRMC opened a new Medical Detoxification unit in November of this year. Partnering with The Journey Detox and Recovery program created a place to be treated for withdrawals after receiving treatment for addiction. The new unit can treat withdrawals for alcohol, opiate and benzodiazepine.

TRMC has designated a 23-bed unit for the program with its own staff. It is a confidential unit. Anyone looking to fight addiction may enroll himself or herself without a referral, as long as he or she is older than 18 years old.

The Flu

It never fails that the flu creeps in at the end of every year.

“There is a strain of the flu virus that is not covered by the vaccine that has been prevalent in our area this season,” Lowery said.

This strain, according to the Center for Disease Control is a mutated form of influenza A that has changed significantly since 2012, when the vaccine was created.

While the flu vaccine is always encouraged, hand washing is another great way to protect oneself from the flu, especially from the strain that is not covered in the vaccine. As always, contact a doctor if flu symptoms occur.