Valley Health projects more need

Mark H. Merrill

Mark H. Merrill

WINCHESTER — After a year of great change in regional healthcare availability, CEO and President of Valley Health Mark Merrill said he’s most proud of the health system’s collaborations that continue to bring increased care to the area.

“The state of our health support is secure,” he told listeners at the Valley Health System corporation meeting and year in review luncheon on Tuesday in Winchester.

Moving forward, he said, excellent healthcare will require more such collaborations with regional physicians.

Valley Health recently broke ground on a cancer center at Winchester Medical Center — a feat that surgical oncologist Dr. Patrick Wagner said will keep expressing its benefit in coming years.

“There’s a huge need in this community for cancer surgery,” he said.

Projecting an increase of 300,000 cancer diagnoses in the top of Virginia region over the next 25 years, he said a cancer center will be essential to serving the community.

Treating cancer in the future will require a broad-spectrum, multidisciplinary effort, he said. Though diagnoses of lung and colon cancer have been decreasing, he said incidences of esophageal, liver and pancreatic cancer are on the rise.

New initiatives Winchester Medical Center plans for the cancer center will focus on cancer screening and diagnosis, radiation and medical oncology, and interventional radiology as well as various cancer surgery units.

The hospital has had surgical oncology for three years, he said, but plans to add surgical units for gastrointestinal cancers, breast cancer, thoracic cancer and gynecologic cancers to address rising needs for treatment. Future additions likely will include robotic cancer surgery, allowing doctors more latitude in the surgical unit.

“The value [of a cancer center] is immeasurable,” Wagner said. “We can’t measure the impact. It will be extraordinary.”

Valley Health’s other big initiatives in the last year include last month’s groundbreaking on a new emergency room and medical office building at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock and the launching of remaining features to its EpicCare medical records database.

Now, with the addition of EpicCare’s “My Chart,” patients can access their own records online to electronically pay medical bills, view and update records and request appointments and prescription renewals.

Last year, Winchester Medical Center underwent unit renovations and welcomed Page Memorial Hospital’s new 25-bed critical access facility that opened in May 2014.

This year, Merrill said area health care is positioned for success through medicine services, orthopedic services and the expansion of the outreach clinics through Hampshire Memorial Hospital in Romney, West Virginia. Heart and vascular services include chest pain centers at Warren Memorial Hospital and Winchester Medical Center and cardiac clinics at all Valley Health hospitals.

Valley Health earnings last year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization have exceeded industry averages and are upward trending, according to meeting documents. Revenue was $665.5 million in 2010, and last year was $743.2 million. Budgeted revenue for 2015 is nearly $745.6 million.

Merrill said plans for the future address engaging employees in becoming more successful.

Last year, area hospitals treated and released 29,000 patients, helped 125,000 who visited emergency departments and delivered 2,800 babies.

“It’s these people we’re here to serve,” he said.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or

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