As we pause today to reflect and honor the tremendous service of our nation’s Veterans, we do so with gratitude and a sense of obligation to the men and women who have served our nation over the years and continue to do so today.  I am humbled by their bravery and commitment to the ideals of American democracy.  New Hampshire hospitals and health systems are proud to serve these brave men and women in partnership with the VA Medical Center in Manchester and our partners across the state of New Hampshire.  To all who have served our nation and their families, thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

 

Steve Ahnen, President

BRETTON WOODS – At their Annual Meeting held October 20th – 22nd, the New Hampshire Hospital Association (NHHA) and Foundation for Healthy Communities (FHC) honored healthcare leaders, executives and partners from across the state who have made significant contributions to their hospital or the healthcare field.

Kevin Stone, most recently of Helms & Company, was presented with a James A. Hamilton Founder’s Award, the New Hampshire Hospital Association’s highest honor, for outstanding service to healthcare on behalf of the people of New Hampshire.  Stone was recognized for his dedication and commitment to making the health care system work better for patients and providers, demonstrated through his distinguished career of over 35 years serving healthcare institutions and providers across the state.

Bruce King, President & CEO of New London Hospital, was honored with the NHHA Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership in advocacy and dedication to his institution, patients and colleagues.  Throughout his nearly 40 years in the healthcare field, King has tirelessly dedicated himself to serving the needs of the community and empowering his institution to become the community anchor it exists as today for the region.

Stanley ‘Chris’ Cundey, Board of Trustees, New London Hospital, was recognized for excellence in hospital governance with the Outstanding Trustee of the Year Award.  Cundey was recognized for his passion, vision and strategic governance as a Board Trustee, as well as his commitment to, and passion for, the organization, its staff and patients throughout his years of service. 

Andrew Torkelson, MD, New London Hospital, was the recipient of the Medical Staff Award for outstanding service to his hospital and community, an honor bestowed upon a medical staff member from an NHHA member institution whose professional performance has strengthened the cooperation between the hospital and the medical staff, and who brings credit to the institution and the community.   Revered by his friends and colleagues for his devotion to delivering compassionate, quality patient care, Dr. Torkelson was nominated for dedication and commitment to his patients, his community and his colleagues.

Exeter Health Resources was named recipient of the Noah Lord for Patient & Family Engagement Award, which recognizes the innovative work being done to better engage patients and families with Patient Family Advisors and Patient Family Advisory Councils to improve patient safety, quality improvement and the patient experience in a hospital system.   Exeter Health Resources was recognized for their efforts to improve the design and delivery of care for LGBTQ patients with the goal of ensuring respectful, effective and patient‐centered care.

Monadnock Community Hospital was named the recipient of the Honoring Excellence in Patient Safety & Quality Improvement Award.  This award honors a team of healthcare professionals who demonstrate a continued commitment to providing quality care to their patients, lead the charge for quality improvement, promote transparency to improve healthcare, and achieve better outcomes through the implementation of a strong culture of safety.   Monadnock Community Hospital was recognized for their organization-wide commitment to highly reliable, exceptional quality, patient-centered care, and their successful efforts to develop and promote improvements in quality of care for the patients they serve.

And honored with the Foundation’s highest recognition was Corey Gately, Director of Substance Use Disorders at LRGHealthcare, who received the prestigious Innovator’s Award for her leadership and dedication to creating pathways to addiction treatment and recovery across the care continuum for patients with substance use disorders.

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on the passage of the budget:

We applaud the commitment of lawmakers to move our state forward on several important initiatives by passing the comprise budget put forward by Governor Sununu and legislative leaders.  This budget makes investments in a number of areas vital to the health of our patients, including mental health and substance use, and provides an increase in Medicaid rates for all providers to help address workforce shortages and gaps in our health care system caused by New Hampshire’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates.  We look forward to continuing this momentum to address the challenges facing New Hampshire today. 

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on the budget compromise achieved:

This agreement allows New Hampshire to move beyond the budget stalemate of the past few months and move forward on several important initiatives.  This compromise budget makes investments in a number of key areas vital to the health of our patients, including mental health and substance use, as well as providing an increase in Medicaid rates for all providers to help address workforce shortages and gaps in our health care system caused by New Hampshire’s low Medicaid reimbursement rates.  We appreciate the efforts of Governor Sununu, Senate President Donna Soucy, Senate Finance Chairman Lou D’Allesandro, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff and House Finance Committee Chairman Mary Jane Wallner in working to reach this compromise, and we urge the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The call for nominations for the NHHA & FHC Annual Awards of Excellence is now open!  Please consider nominating leaders and / or efforts within your organization for the awards listed below:

New Hampshire Hospital Association Awards

  • James A. Hamilton Founder's Award
  • President's Award
  • Medical Staff of the Year Award
  • Outstanding Trustee of the Year Award

Foundation for Healthy Communities Awards

  • Patient Safety & Quality Improvement  Award
  • Noah Lord Patient & Family Engagement Award

Nominations can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (NHHA Awards) and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (FHC Awards) and are due by Friday, September 27, 2019. 

Our 2019 Award Winners will be announced and celebrated during the awards ceremony on the evening of Monday, October 21st at the Annual Meeting.  More information about the 2019 Annual Meeting can be found here, and should you have any questions about the event, registration or the awards please don’t hesitate to contact us.

We look forward to celebrating your nominees with you in October!

 

DOWNLOAD THE 2019 AWARD NOMINATION MATERIALS

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on the State Budget:

Throughout this budget process, there was significant consensus among the Governor and his administration, legislative leadership, advocates and stakeholders about the need to address pressing issues around the health of our citizens – particularly in the area of behavioral health, substance abuse and Medicaid services, and we applaud all those who took part in its development for their efforts. 

Specifically, this budget agreement:

  • Fully funds the settlement agreement reached last year on the state’s Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET) and Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) programs, which supports hospitals in the provision of uncompensated care, and also provides significant funding for the overall state Medicaid program;
  • Advances patient care by making significant investments in New Hampshire’s mental health system, including:
    • increasing the rate paid to hospitals operating involuntary mental health units known as designated receiving facilities (DRF);
    • moves the services for children out of New Hampshire Hospital to a more appropriate setting for their care and provides funding to renovate and operationalize that space at New Hampshire Hospital for up to 48 adult inpatient beds;
    • adds additional mobile crisis teams, including one statewide with the ability to address the needs of children so that patients can get the services they need and potentially avoid the need for inpatient level care;
    • increases the number of transitional housing beds so that patients are able to be discharged from an acute inpatient setting with the supports they need to live in the community; and
    • establishes a new forensic hospital for those patients currently in the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the state prison.
  • Increases Medicaid provider rates to help sustain services and recruit and retain employees across the continuum of care, from mental health and substance use services to hospitals, home care agencies and nursing homes.

Budgets are a reflection of our values and a statement of our priorities.  This budget addresses a number of important initiatives that are vital to the health and well-being of New Hampshire citizens, and we hope it will move forward.

As we begin our celebrations of National Nurses and National Hospital Week, we look forward to taking this opportunity to thank the dedicated individuals who work in hospitals for their contributions and commitment to the health and wellness of their communities, every day.

The theme for this year’s National Hospital Week is Celebrating Hope and Healing, and given the recent event at Cheshire Medical Center that forced them to experience what may have been the first full evacuation of a hospital in the state of New Hampshire, we’re reminded of the incredible resilience and commitment that all of our hospitals demonstrate with regard to fostering health, promoting healing and representing hope.  That is the promise that the blue and white “H” delivers to every patient, every family, in every community, every day.  

It’s not often we’re reminded about the importance of engaging in emergency preparedness activities, whether a health care facility, local agency or community.  Cheshire Medical Center, along with other hospitals, had just participated in a statewide emergency preparedness exercise, held earlier that same week by the Granite State Health Care Coalition; a coalition under the Foundation for Healthy Communities that serves to help communities and the health care continuum prepare, respond and recover from disaster events that impact New Hampshire. 

We applaud the doctors, nurses and staff of Cheshire Medical Center, the first responders, emergency management agencies, city and state agencies and personnel, ESF8-Health & Medical, Homeland Security & Emergency Management and surrounding hospitals for their readiness in carrying out a multi-faceted emergency response that required a full evacuation of the hospital and partial activation of the State Emergency Operations Center.   

In honor of National Hospital and National Nurses Week, and every week after, we thank the 65,000+ individuals who work in health care for their commitment and dedication to protecting, promoting and improving health care for their patients when they need it most. 

 

Steve Ahnen

President, New Hampshire Hospital Association

 

National Nurses Week, May 6-12

National Hospital Week, May 12-18

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement on Governor Sununu’s budget address:

We commend the Governor for the focus in his budget remarks on addressing the mental health crisis facing New Hampshire.

At its very core, the fundamental issue is about ensuring that people with a mental health illness, especially those suffering an acute psychiatric crisis, are able to get the care they need, when and where they need it.  We look forward to working together with the Governor, the legislature and other key stakeholders to solve that problem and better serve these patients and their families.

Hospitals have long partnered with the State on many critical issues, including funding support for both New Hampshire’s Medicaid Expansion program and the State’s substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, to helping establish integrated delivery networks through the Medicaid 1115 Transformation Waiver and a hub and spoke system aimed at enhancing access to resources for those suffering substance use disorders, and we will continue to do so.

New Hampshire Hospital Association President, Steve Ahnen, testified in support of SB 11 to make immediate investments in New Hampshire's mental health care system.

 

Testimony Excerpt:

Last Friday there were 25 adults and 4 children in an acute psychiatric crisis waiting in hospital emergency rooms to be transferred to the appropriate setting for the care they so desperately need and deserve. 

The Emergency Department (ED) waitlist is a symptom of a much broader, systemic problem—that we simply do not have adequate resources across the entire system to care for those with a mental health issue, from outpatient services to acute inpatient services, housing, crisis services and more.  While we must address the challenges across the entire mental health system, we absolutely must solve the crisis for those in an acute psychiatric crisis who are forced to wait days, sometimes weeks, to be transferred to the appropriate setting for their care.  This boarding crisis has gone on for far too long, and on behalf of these patients and their families, we must do all we can to ensure it does not continue.

SB 11 takes an important step in that direction.

SB 11 would:

  • make available capital funds to support hospitals or other health care organizations to make the necessary renovations to create designated receiving facility (DRF) units that can accept and serve patients in an acute psychiatric crisis;
  • increase the rates paid for services provided in new and existing DRF units that are adequate and allow those organizations to sustain those services over time;
  • allow for an increase in rates for voluntary inpatient psychiatric services;
  • increase the number of transitional housing beds in the State to support those patients as they recover and move back into the community following an inpatient admission or mental health crisis;
  • require payments from insurance carriers for their members in an acute psychiatric crisis who are waiting in hospital EDs to be transferred to the appropriate setting for their care; and
  • would require the DHHS Commissioner to enter into rulemaking regarding the hearings for those involuntarily committed to the State mental health system.

These are all very important provisions that will begin to move us in the direction of addressing the mental health crisis facing our State and those suffering from a mental illness. 

 

Download full testimony here.

Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, released the below statement this afternoon on hospitals’ decision to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH) against the State of New Hampshire:

 

ACLU-NH recently filed a lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire for failure to provide timely probable cause hearings for patients in an acute psychiatric crisis in accordance with State law.

While one hospital was named as a party to the lawsuit, hospitals across New Hampshire are intervening in the suit on behalf of our patients because the State is not only depriving them of their constitutional and statutory rights to due process but also failing to provide timely treatment for those patients in an acute psychiatric crisis as required by State law.  The ACLU-NH explicitly excluded this important element from their lawsuit.  Because this issue is so fundamental to the challenges facing our patients and the broader mental health system, it is imperative that the Court address this issue as part of the ACLU’s litigation.

State law is very clear.  When a patient is deemed to be a danger to himself, herself or others and a petition for involuntary emergency admission (an IEA Petition) is completed, the patient is committed to the state mental health system and is to be transferred immediately to an appropriate and specialized site of care – a designated receiving facility (DRF).  But the State of NH is not—and has not been for years—in compliance with this requirement, relying on hospitals to hold these patients in their emergency departments (EDs) until a bed becomes available at a DRF.  Hospital EDs are ill-equipped to meet the specialized needs of these patients but due to the shortage of DRF beds IEA patients are forced to wait days, sometimes weeks, in hospital EDs before they are transferred to appropriate sites of care.

New Hampshire’s failure to ensure immediate treatment and due process for those in need of mental health care services is morally and ethically wrong, and it does not serve the health care needs of patients.  Now is the time to resolve this crisis so that patients with acute psychiatric needs can get the care they need, when and where they need it.  We know State policymakers share this priority, and we look forward to partnering with them on solutions this legislative session.

While hospitals agree with a number of the allegations raised in the ACLU lawsuit, we believe the lawsuit’s narrow focus on due process does not fully and adequately address the mental health care needs of IEA patients.  Moreover, on the issue of due process, we fundamentally disagree with the ACLU’s claim that holding probable cause hearings in hospital EDs is a viable alternative.  Not only is this bad public policy and bad health care practice, it serves to enable and perpetuate the flawed system that exists today.  The solution is not to build courtrooms in hospital EDs; the solution is to move these patients to appropriate DRFs where they can get the care and due process to which they are entitled by state law.  Ensuring these hearings take place in a timely manner in the appropriate judicial setting is a State responsibility.  As the ACLU alleges, “the responsibility to fix this problematic practice continues to be the State’s.”

Despite this responsibility belonging exclusively to the State, during the Summer and Fall of 2017, several hospitals worked with the NH Department of Health and Human Services, the court system and other stakeholders to design a pilot project for providing probable cause hearings in their emergency departments for patients subject to an IEA Petition.  The pilot project evaluated a plan relative to the due process rights of patients subject to IEA Petitions who are waiting transfer to a DRF.  Four non-profit hospitals in the state agreed to explore the viability of this pilot project, including possible changes in their emergency departments to facilitate probable cause hearings, for which the State’s Circuit Court System is solely responsible.

Contrary to claims made in the ACLU lawsuit, all stakeholders involved, including State officials, ultimately concluded that safety and security concerns for patients, family members, other patients, as well as hospital and court staff, presented insurmountable barriers to successfully and safely launch the pilot project.

What the current lawsuit does not address is the fundamental issue of a mental health system that fails to provide timely access to mental health care services for every patient who needs it.  It is imperative that the State fulfill its obligation to meet the needs of patients seeking mental health care services and address the immediate crisis these patients and their families are facing.  Securing timely probable cause hearings is just one of the many significant challenges facing patients who are boarding in hospitals waiting to receive the mental health care they need in the appropriate setting.  We are choosing to intervene so that the larger, fundamental issue of ensuring that New Hampshire has adequate capacity to provide the necessary, immediate care for all patients seeking mental health care services is addressed.

Hospitals have long partnered with the State on many critical issues, including funding support for both New Hampshire’s Medicaid Expansion program and the State’s substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts, to helping establish integrated delivery networks through the Medicaid 1115 Transformation Waiver and a hub and spoke system aimed at enhancing access to resources for those suffering substance use disorders.  Even with these successes, there is still much to be done and we look forward to continuing these efforts in partnership with the State and others so that together we can better serve our patients and communities.

Steve Ahnen is president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association

 

Download Statement

The New Hampshire Hospital Association recently released its 2018 Annual Report, in which NHHA Board Chair, Cynthia McGuire, President & CEO of Monadnock Community Hospital, and Steve Ahnen, President, New Hampshire Hospital Association, highlight the successful efforts of New Hampshire hospitals in improving the health and well-being of their patients and communities.

 

Download the 2018 Annual Report

 

AR Image PR blog

Today, November 15th, the New Hampshire Hospital Association is proud to join other state and national rural stakeholders in celebrating National Rural Health Day.

National Rural Health Day was created to recognize those who serve the vital health needs of nearly 60 million people residing in America’s rural communities, and the importance of rural healthcare providers who work tirelessly to address the barriers patients face in accessing healthcare when they need it.

New Hampshire has 13 Critical Access Hospitals throughout the state that support their communities by delivering high quality healthcare in very rural, underserved areas of the state.  These hospitals are engaging in innovative programs like telehealth medicine that allow New Hampshire’s rural health providers to coordinate care, stay connected with each other and urban tertiary care centers.  In addition, they partner with the state’s tertiary care hospitals to bring expert, specialty care to rural patients where they live through a variety of collaborations.  They collaborate with the State Office of Rural Health, rural healthcare providers and others to create partnerships that improve the health and well-being of their communities.

Beyond the issue of care, rural hospitals also serve as economic engines for the communities they serve, often existing as the largest employers in their communities for generations of families.  New Hampshire’s rural hospitals recruit and sustain physicians, specialists and other clinicians to provide care, and the availability of that care is an important factor in attracting business and industry to our state. 

It is because of their efforts in ensuring access to care and status as community and economic anchors, that the Rural Health Coalition (RHC), which helps to coordinate the work of New Hampshire’s 13 critical access hospitals, is being honored with the 2018 Community Star recognition from the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), along with colleagues across the country for delivering excellence in rural health settings over the past year.  The RHC is led by a CAH CEO each year and we were fortunate to have Maria Ryan, Ph.D., CEO at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, NH, who served in that role this past year.  Mike Peterson, President of Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, NH, will serve as Chair in the coming year.

It is because of the dedication and commitment of New Hampshire’s rural health care leaders to ensure their communities have access to healthcare, and the compassion with which they deliver that care to their patients and families, that we honor New Hampshire’s rural healthcare providers today and every day. 

 

Steve Ahnen

President, New Hampshire Hospital Association

 

The Rural Health Coalition recognized as a 2018 Community Star by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH)

Community Star image

The New Hampshire Hospital Association and the Foundation for Healthy Communities recently held their Annual Meeting at the OMNI Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, bringing together over 330 healthcare leaders and partners from across the state to celebrate the work being done by all, and to honor those who have made significant contributions to hospitals and the healthcare field.

This year’s annual meeting, Leading the Way to a Healthier New Hampshire, reminded us how leading together to find solutions to the challenges we face as a state is what makes our work so meaningful.  As community leaders, responsible for delivering high quality, compassionate care to the patients and communities who depend on you, there are multiple challenges and demands your organization must balance so that you can deliver on the promise of the blue and white H that we see in our communities of being there when patients and families need us most.

The challenges our state and healthcare system face today are many: a rapidly changing financial model as health care reimbursement moves from volume to value; a mental health crisis that continues to see dozens of patients in an acute psychiatric crisis wait days, sometimes weeks in hospital emergency departments while they await placement for the appropriate site of treatment; a substance use and opioid epidemic that is devastating New Hampshire’s citizens and families; a shift to a health care system that is focused on improving the health of the population, not just on taking care of patients when they are sick; addressing workforce shortages and many others.

The sessions and conversations throughout this year’s annual meeting were thoughtful, collaborative and engaging, and we’re grateful for the opportunity of bringing leaders throughout the state together around relevant topics that affect us all.  However, we wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of our sponsors who make this meeting possible, so we extend our deepest appreciation to our 2018 Annual Meeting Sponsors listed below.

We’d like to congratulate our newly elected and re-elected board members, as well as celebrate our outgoing board members, for their commitment and dedication to their hospital, the healthcare field, the Association and its member hospitals.  A full press release highlighting incoming and outgoing board members can be found here.

And finally, one of our favorite segments of the annual meeting is having the chance to honor New Hampshire’s healthcare leaders and executives who have made significant contributions to their hospital or the healthcare field, so congratulations again to our all of our award recipients.   For a full list of our 2018 Award Recipients, please click here.

We look forward to continuing these important conversations and working together over the next year to make New Hampshire healthier.

Steve Ahnen

President

 

2018 Annual Meeting Presentations

 

Leading the Way

Today marks the 17th anniversary since the horrific attack on our country on that fateful Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001.  I was working in Washington, DC at the time as a senior executive at the American Hospital Association and was on my way over to a meeting with state hospital association executives from around the country, when we passed by the White House and saw staff members pouring out of the building after being told to evacuate for fear that hijacked United Flight 93 was headed to Washington. 

The moments following 9/11 have left a searing image in the minds of Americans across this country.  It was a day that changed everything.  But it was also a day that reinforced so much of what is right and what is good. 

The image below was taken outside of the emergency room at the Virginia Hospital Center, a community hospital in Arlington, Virginia where many of the victims of the plane crash from the Pentagon would have been taken.  Unfortunately, those victims never came because so many perished when the plane flew into the Pentagon.

 

September 11

 

When thinking back to those fateful events of 9/11, this picture is such a powerful reminder of the important role hospitals have, and will continue to play, as institutions who are always there, ready to care for the patients and communities who depend on them.  It really is a promise of hope, health and healing.  And it’s one we see play out every day across New Hampshire and this country as hospitals stand ready to care for those in need. 

Let us pause and pay our respects to those who lost their lives on September 11, but also to thank the women and men who stood ready to care on that day and who do so every day.

Never forget.

 

Steve Ahnen is the president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association