Moving Southeastern Health forward

via The Robesonian

This past week, the Board of Trustees of Southeastern Health announced that we have begun exploring options for the future that may include a partnership with another organization. We know how much this hospital and its services mean to this region, and we believe our patients deserve the best health-care future possible.

Some in our community may not realize that our board is comprised of community members, like myself, who have a sincere desire to see our area and its citizens thrive. As people who live, work, own businesses, and have families here, we are committed to discerning the very best outcome for our health-care system.

My personal ties to the local health system extend over several decades. Throughout the years, I’ve experienced first-hand the hospital’s commitment to compassionate, high-quality care. My earliest recollection is having my leg stitched up in the emergency room as a fourth-grader because I had yet to learn to use an Xacto knife correctly. I’m not quite a native, but my family moved to Robeson County when I was in third grade and I met my wife, Lisa, at Lumberton Junior High. A few years after graduate school, we moved back home to run a business and raise our sons. My father served on Southeastern Health’s Board of Trustees for 25 years and my wife has been an active member of Southeastern Health’s Foundation Board for over 15 years.

I fondly remember significant milestones in the life of the health system, from the bed tower construction to the partnership with Duke Health to create and manage Southeastern Health Heart and Vascular that expanded local access to leading cardiology services. I have seen us expand our ability to train and recruit qualified health-care providers through our partnership with Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. Most recently, through a partnership with Robeson Health Care Corporation, the Dr. A.J. Robinson Community Health and Wellness Center in South Lumberton, which was flooded during Hurricane Matthew, reopened with a broader service offering.

Our county looks much different than it did 65 years ago when Southeastern Health first began serving the community, and so, too, does the health-care landscape. Healthcare is more complex than it has ever been, and we’re seeing changes in just about every aspect of the industry. The tightening of federal and state budgets means health systems across the country are being forced to do more with less, while the need to constantly invest in expensive technology and equipment steadily increases.

These pressures are especially real for small community health systems like ours. A dedicated management team, gifted providers and employees, generous community partners, and decisions by prior board members have ensured that our hospital has remained current and is often a leader when it comes to services, equipment and technology. However, while we are strong today, we must prepare for the road ahead and respond appropriately. For more than 65 years, the providers, nurses and other caregivers at Southeastern Health have taken care of families like mine — and yours — with compassionate, high-quality care. The Board of Trustees will do everything we can to ensure Southeastern Health continues to thrive for generations to come.

We have a rich history of aligning with other organizations to strengthen care and better position our health system for the future. That’s why our Board of Trustees has begun the process to explore our options for the future, one of which may be partnering with a like-minded organization. Our current exploration is the next step in our evolution, and the board is committed to a deliberate and thoughtful exploration process. No decisions have been made today, and we will take our time to do this right. As we move forward, we want you to be informed as possible throughout our journey. You may go to the special website created for this partnership exploration journey to learn more (

As the chair of the Board of Trustees, I am fortunate to serve alongside trustees who truly have the best interest of our county and the people we serve in mind. We are your friends and neighbors, and your hospital is our hospital. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure Southeastern Health remains strong and able to serve families like yours for another 65 years and beyond.

Kenneth Rust is chairman of the Board of Trustees for Southeastern Health.