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Chaplains’ group recognized for around-the-clock help

In light of the fact that medical privacy laws have dramatically changed the way chaplains can interact with patients, Mary Rutan Hospital’s Volunteer Chaplaincy Group received the hospital association’s internal meritorious service award during Monday evening’s annual meeting.


Ron Irick, second from left, vice chairman of Mary Rutan Hospital’s Volunteer Chaplaincy Group, which received the internal meritorious service award, is joined by, from the left, Glenn Gault, Lee Ortman and Tami Wenger. (EXAMINER PHOTO | REUBEN MEES)

Organized in September 1972, by the late Revs. Howard Schmitt and Keith McNeill, the group now consists of 14 local pastors who answer calls around the clock to help patients or families who are struggling with life and death issues.

“Each and every day this group gives selflessly of their time to comfort and counsel others,” association chairwoman Nancy Knight said when presenting the ward. “The volunteer chaplains are an important part of the Mary Rutan Health Care Team and provide assistance with the spiritual and emotional needs of the patients and families served.

“During patient visits, the chaplains assist in experiences of both joy and grief,” she said.

“Whether it’s celebrating the birth of a newborn baby, talking and praying with a patient during a hospital stay, holding the hand of a dying patient or providing comfort and support to a family in the emergency department during a critical time, the chaplains meet the needs of Mary Rutan Hospital patients and families on a daily basis.”

But it has become an increasingly difficult task, Rev. Ron Irick, vice-chairman of the chaplains’ group said.

“Our progress goes up and down with the climate of health care,” he said. “With new HIPAA laws, we don’t see as many patients because they have to ask us to come in.”

Numbers have dropped from as many as a dozen patients per day to as few as three or four, the Rev. Irick said, but the pastors remain ready to respond in a moment’s notice.

“We are on call 24 hours a day, and if there is a death we go to the hospital immediately,” he said. “Oftentimes, we serve as the first line between the hospital and families in cases of accidental deaths.”

In addition to the Rev. Irick, those recognized include chairman Roger Rude, Tony Doehrmann, C.J. Plogger, Lee Ortman, Glenn Gault, Mark Warren, Abe Kenner, Tami Wenger, Anne Reames, Jim Burton, Floyd Lundy, Catherine Murphy and Norlin Ricks.

Other business of the annual meeting included a report on the past year’s accomplishments and election of five directors to the board. Elected to represent the city of Bellefontaine was Joan Haushalter and Dr. Tom Darrah. Representing Logan County was Drs. Harry Graber and Matt Verbsky, and the at-large position was filled by Steve Austin.

Following the meeting, executive sessions of the Mary Rutan Health Association Board and Mary Rutan Hospital Board were conducted.

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