visits at GVH increase
Underscore need for on-call general surgeon?
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2012-10-11
A slight increase in ambulance and emergency room patients admitted at the Gunnison Valley Hospital (GVH) has given rise to concerns about finding an on-call general surgeon for the local health system.
The number of patients needing ambulance services increased by almost 20 percent for the month of August, based on numbers from 2012 compared to those from 2011. A total of 67 patients utilized ambulance services last month, which is up from 56 patients the year prior.
GVH also saw a marginal increase in the number of patients admitted for emergency room care during that time, from 584 in 2011 to 587 in 2012.
The hospital has been without an on-call general surgeon since Sept. 7, when Dr. John Bishop withdrew himself from emergency room duties. For the month of September, a total of 16 patients were transferred to other facilities for a higher standard of care, via the Flight for Life helicopter.
According to the hospital’s chief marketing and business development officer, Michelle Campbell, three of those patients could have stayed at GVH had there been a general surgeon on hand.
At GVH, family physicians evaluate emergency room patients and treat those who have conditions within their capabilities and training certifications, according to Campbell. For conditions beyond their training, they will either call local specialists — who may treat the patient at GVH — or they send the patient to a Level II or III trauma center, such Grand Junction or Montrose, respectively.
However, GVH leaders are in the process of finding a new on-call surgeon in order to avoid any additional costs that a patient might acquire from having to be transported to another hospital for care.
“We’re working to get an on call arrangement for Dr. Bishop, but that is still in negotiations,” said Campbell. “We’re working with a recruiting firm and also going to people directly that we know of (to try and fill the position).”
She went on to explain that a recruiting firm has identified three potential “Locum Tenens,” or substitute surgeons, who are currently being reviewed for the position. However, those substitutes are based outside of the Gunnison Valley and would only work on a temporary basis.
Until a new on call general surgeon can be brought on, GVH will be forced to send patients requiring certain high-level needs elsewhere — which officials say happens most of the time anyway.
“The majority of the cases GVH sends out to other facilities are related to brain or spinal cord injury, heart emergencies, some strokes and multi-system traumas from accidents,” said GVH Chief Medical Officer John Tarr. “These types of cases will require sub specialists and equipment not available at a Level IV trauma center and will almost always be sent out by helicopter.”
During 2011, the hospital had 5,351 emergency room visits and 859 ambulance calls. Patients were sent to other facilities 37 times by helicopter.
(Matt Smith can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)