AMONG THE ANTIQUE ROSES TWINING around the 500-foot Old Brick Wall, the serene Butterfly Pond and Garden, and the graves of more than 2,200 Confederate soldiers at Old City Cemetery sits what is perhaps Lynchburg, Virginia’s best legacy: The Pest House Medical Museum.
One might assume that any site in the geographical center of Virginia contains battlefields, but not so Lynchburg. Its historical significance lies more in bottles than in bullets, quarantines instead of quartermasters. So today the Pest House—a recreation of Quaker doctor John J. Terrell’s office—serves as a monument to the town’s role as a major hospital center during the Civil War.
Venerable Lynchburg still hasn’t witnessed a major battle, even as the health-care profession in the rest of the country redefined itself this decade.
Physicians of all specialties can consider Lynchburg a haven for their practices. Here, as Augusta Thompson, the manager of the Lynchburg Convention and Visitors Bureau phrases it, “We regard
doctors as gods. They are wonderful people, and always have been from days of yore.”
Naturally, outsiders need a bit more proof before accepting this conclusion. George Dawson, the president and CEO of Centra Health, offers as testament to the quality of Lynchburg’s health-care professionals the cooperation between the city’s two non-profit hospitals: 259-bed Virginia Baptist and 270-bed Lynchburg General. Although both were officially brought under Centra’s umbrella in 1986, the two hospitals voluntarily have waltzed since the early ’70s. What one has, the other politely declined to offer.
So Lynchburg General is home to emergency and critical care, neurology, neurosurgery, orthopaedic, and cardiology services, while Virginia Baptist, five minutes away, handles cancer care, ambulatory surgery, mental health and chemical addiction, women and children’s health, and home health.
“Any community with two hospitals developed an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality over the years, so there’s a residual hostility to address when they finally partner,” points out Tom Urtz, Centra Health’s spokesman who moved to Lynchburg from New Haven, Connecticut, in February this year. “Here, they not only merged ahead of the national curve, but their tone was collaborative from the get-go.”
Not to mention cost-effective. According to the 1998 Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, which studies
Medicare costs and utilization nationwide, Lynchburg has the lowest Medicare reimbursements of any of the 306 hospital-referral regions it surveys. That shakes out to spending $2,887 per non-HMO Medicare enrollee; the national average is $4,878. The economical rate is due to the efficient provision of services; patients still receive quality care. “We serve our market and patients one at a time,” Urtz insists.
With this track record, it’s no surprise the business segment’s own Lynchburg Health Care Coalition, also formed early in the managed-care game to fight rising costs for company owners, has become
a model of success. The group again credits camaraderie—rather than pit business against medicine, these leaders invited doctors, insurers and hospital administrators to join the team. The first product was a workers’ compensation claim process hammered out by human resource executives, orthopaedic surgeons, emergency room physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, and rehabilitation counselors that saved Weyerhaeuser nearly $100,000 the first year, reports Bill
Edwards of Virginia Business.
“The committee’s success came ainly from keeping employers actively involved in workers’ claims,” orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Jay Hopkins said in Edwards’ article. And it started with something as simple as a workplace profile that details the elements of each job and outlines light-duty alternatives
doctors could sign off on for patients.