In 2019, the Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital affiliated with Sparrow Hospital and became Sparrow Eaton Hospital. There have been many changes since then, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic started in 2020, hospitals immediately started limiting access to protect both the public and their staff.
“COVID has affected us all,” Tammy Merritt, director of Physician Practices at Sparrow Eaton said. “It’s been very hard. But still, we are always here for our patients.”
Initially, Sparrow Eaton cared for many of their patients by phone. Next came video visits, with patients connecting face-to-face with their healthcare provider via computer or smartphone–without having to leave their home or workplace. Patients seemed to enjoy this new feature and Sparrow Eaton made this convenient new method a goal - providing even more video visits to their patients.
“We don’t expect video visits to go away anytime in the future,” said Merritt. “Patients like them, plus insurance companies reimburse better with face-to-face contact visits, even if it’s by video.”
As director of Physician Practices at Sparrow Eaton Hospital, Merritt oversees hospital operations by directing, supervising, and coordinating staff in primary care, orthopedics, urgent care, specialty clinics, and more.
“The practice of medicine has not slowed down,” she said, “despite the virus”. But Merritt estimates about 95% of the patients needing medical care are now coming into the hospital in person. There are still some that are not completely comfortable entering the building, however, and Sparrow Eaton is making sure they have the access they need.
In addition to using virtual doctor visits, another tool available is the MySparrow online portal. This portal is a direct connection to the hospital and allows a patient to access much of their medical information through it. MySparrow puts your health information in one place and can even assist you in prescription refills or if you need to send a message to your doctor. Using MySparrow allows patients to take more control over their own health, 24 hours a day.
With so many technological advancements, even in 2021, there can be internet connectivity issues, especially in the outlying rural areas of Eaton County. There are also some people that don’t have the computer skills needed to be able to use video visits. The portal can provide information to help with computer access, with tips and tricks to educate. If all else fails and a patient is unable to use a computer or a smartphone for medical services, a regular telephone call is still an option.
A new pilot program for the MySparrow portal that has been implemented in the SMG Eaton Rapids office gives patients the ability and convenience to make their appointments directly through the app. If you decide at 10 p.m., for example, that you need to see your doctor the next day, you can book the appointment via the portal.
Another change that Sparrow Eaton has recently had involves the hospital’s administrative staff. Helen Johnson was named the new president of Sparrow Eaton in January of 2021. Johnson came to Sparrow Eaton from Spectrum Health Hospital in Ludington.
“She’s really great,” said Merritt. “She’s engaged with the community, and really cares about the patients.” Johnson started her career as an Oncology nurse in Marquette, having graduated from Northern Michigan University and later earning her master’s degree through the University of Phoenix. Johnson and her husband, Ben, have moved to the area and are eager to become part of the community.
Sparrow Eaton has also opened a new office in Potterville–Sparrow Medical Group (SMG) Potterville. It’s located at 133 West Lansing Road, Potterville.
Sparrow’s reach is felt across the mid-Michigan area at more than 115 locations, including the E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and community hospitals in Carson City, Charlotte, Ionia, and St. Johns.
“The staff was so friendly, and the parking was easy. Now we won’t have to drive to Lansing!” Tammie Driggs of Eaton Rapids said about Sparrow Eaton after her recent visit there.
Sparrow Eaton Hospital is located at 321 East Harris in Charlotte. You can access their webpage at Sparrow.org/Eaton or connect further with Sparrow Health System as a whole on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.