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Southcoast Health Provides Integrated Health Services to Massachusetts and Surrounding Areas

By S. Mathur

The overall mission of Southcoast Health is "to promote the optimal health and well-being of individuals in the communities it serves throughout Southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island." Offering health services from primary care to neurosurgery, the network includes hospitals in Fall River, New Bedford and Wareham, MA, urgent care centers, cancer centers, rehabilitation, lab and VNA, and physician practices throughout the region.

According to Peter Cohenno, Public Information Officer, "Southcoast Health is the largest provider of primary and specialty care in the region with more than 600 physicians, hospitalists and mid-level practitioners in the Southcoast Physicians Network, 450 of whom are employed by Southcoast Physicians Group (SPG). SPG unites Southcoast Health's primary care, surgical, and specialty services into one seamless, region-wide provider." The network practitioners have a wide range of specialties and are able to offer advanced, personalized care locally.

Overall, Cohenno says, "Southcoast Health has built an integrated "Community of Care" that delivers safety, quality, convenience and an exceptional patient experience in an environment that offers the greatest opportunity for improved health." The network includes three established hospitals in the area: the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, which was founded in 1885; St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford (pictured below), founded in 1884; and Tobey Hospital in Wareham, founded in 1938. These were merged in 1996 to form Southcoast Hospitals Group. They operate under a single hospital license, and have a total of 815 beds. The network also includes Southcoast Behavioral Health in Dartmouth.

Southcoast Health services cover more than 719,000 residents in 33 communities, over an area of more than 900 square miles. The continuum of health care services provides treatment for everything from orthopedic pain to breast cancer. Beginning with a reliable diagnosis, patients are supported through treatment and recovery.

Preventative health and education are an important part of primary healthcare and the network has many resources to support these. Farmers Markets each of the three Southcoast Hospitals and at the South Coast Business Center in Fairhaven, give employees and communities access to healthy, locally grown food. Education and outreach programs on diabetes, exercise and fitness, and counseling and grief support groups help in fulfilling the mission to maintain community health.

Community benefits programs address local health priorities. These include: the high rate of cardiovascular disease, as well as other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma; youth risk behaviors, such as high rates of teen pregnancy, substance abuse and low rates of educational attainment; improved access to health care and enrollment in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Others include expanding cancer screening and education; overall health disparities among certain racial, ethnic and demographic groups; "system and environment change" to increase healthy lifestyle options and decrease risk factors, such as a high rates of smoking, lack of access to healthy foods and physical inactivity; homelessness, and behavioral health issues including substance abuse and mental health issues.

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