Home is where the health is

Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

You’ve heard it for years. You may have even said it yourself: If you’re faced with a major medical issue, head south to New York City or north to Albany for treatment, the implication being that local hospitals lag behind their big-city counterparts in quality.

For decades, Hudson Valley residents seeking special care in fields like cardiology, oncology and orthopedics felt they had travel to New York City or Albany for treatment. But in recent years that trend has begun to diminish, with patients sticking closer to home. That’s no accident.

HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley is an integrated healthcare system with campus locations in Kingston, Margaretville and New Paltz. Josh Ratner, chief strategy officer for HealthAlliance, said that one of the first goals when consolidation came in 2009 was determining why patients left the area for treatment and what might be done to prevent that from happening.

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“We heard about the out-migration to other areas, both north and south,” Ratner said. “It was a priority to understand the environment we were serving so that we could better serve the community. Not only did we look at the data from the state, but also we undertook a community perception survey to go out and quantitatively speak to what the public’s perceptions were at that time so we could better understand how to make some of those changes. It helped us solidify factually why some folks were going outside the community. That became one of the pillars of our strategic plan.”

That plan resulted in a concept that was also pursued by Health Quest, formed through the affiliation of hospitals in Rhinebeck, Poughkeepsie and Carmel. According to Health Quest senior vice-president for strategic planning and business development David Ping, a first step was working with respected physicians in a concerted effort to address the perception of healthcare in the Hudson Valley.

“It started with one program, really,” Ping said. “It started with the desire to make Vassar be a regional referral center for cardiac services. We were able to attract Dr. [Mohan] Sarabu and his team here, and we made sure they had the tools that they needed, the equipment they needed to enable them to practice medicine the way they wanted to practice medicine. Once Dr. Sarabu was established, we moved on to the next thing we wanted to work on, which were oncology services. That was our approach, to take it one program at a time, recruit the best people we could recruit for those programs, have them build the team and then once that’s done start attracting the patients. It was a commitment on the part of Health Quest and Vassar Brothers medical board and the vision of the administrative team to make that happen.”

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