Hospital operates without surgeon

Patients may be diverted to other facilities because general surgeon is on vacation

Until Saturday, one extra piece of information will have to be assessed before severe trauma case can be brought into The Memorial Hospital: Is a surgeon available?

For a 10-day period that started Aug. 8, David James, M.D. and general surgeon, has been on vacation. Until he returns to work on Saturday, TMH will be on diversion status for severe trauma cases, which could lead to a patient being sent from an accident or injury scene to a different hospital for treatment.

To date, no trauma cases have been diverted from TMH during this period.

Under the diversion status protocol, an emergency room (ER) doctor would confer with the ambulance team at the scene, and if a surgeon is not available, the ER doctor would decide which facility to send the patient to.

Other surgeons, such as an orthopedic surgeon, can handle trauma cases if they are on duty, but without a substitute for the general surgeon, there is not total coverage for severe trauma incidents. The diversion status is a process where the workers on scene verify that TMH can handle a particular situation before they bring the patient to TMH.

James gave six weeks of notice of his vacation, but TMH was unable to find a doctor willing to replace him. The hospital had asked doctors on its own reference list and contacted Locums Firm, a headhunting company, to attempt to locate a substitute surgeon, but none were available.

"Anytime a surgeon takes time off, [a hospital] runs into the possibility of being on diversion status, but we've always been able to find coverage before," said Pam Thompson, community relations director for TMH. "It was a matter of schedule conflicts there were no other surgeons available for this period, so we could not secure coverage."

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