The Memorial Hospital makes decision on proposed hospitalist program

In other action:

At its meeting Wednesday, The Memorial Hospital Board:

• Approved, 7-0, May 26 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 7-0, June 22 minutes and financial report for the finance committee.

• Approved, 7-0, June 14 medical staff meeting minutes.

• Approved, 7-0, June 21 joint conference committee meeting minutes.

• Approved, 7-0, recommendations for medical staff, including the reappointment of Thomas Told; provisional staff status for Charity Styles, Cameron Bahr, William Prominski, Matthew Gipson, and Monte Zarlingo; and the advancement from provisional staff to associate staff for Virginia Tjan-Wettstein, Mark Hancock and Jeffrey Quam.

• Approved, 7-0, recommendations from the financial committee regarding contract management, purchasing and expenditure authorization limits and bid solicitation.

• Approved, 7-0, a request for a new phone system complete with cables for The Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic for $14,314 from Tuck Communication Services, Inc.

• Approved, 7-0, clinical privileges for certified surgical first assistant, certified surgical technician, hematology/oncology, optometry and plastic surgery.

• Approved, 7-0, guidelines for contract terms in the potential hiring of a new pediatrician.

— The Memorial Hospital’s next board meeting will be July 28.

Consistency, continuity and convenience.

The three C’s are qualities George Rohrich plans to have in abundance in the coming months at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

At its Wednesday meeting, the hospital board unanimously approved plans to go ahead on a contract to hire four hospitalists through Rural Physicians Group. The hospitalists are multi-purpose physicians who would travel to Craig in cycles to be on hand 24 hours a day for 10 days at a time.

Rohrich, TMH’s chief executive officer, presented the breakdown of the plan for board members.

“I’m really excited about this plan because I think it has tremendous potential for us,” he said.

Three of the hospitalists would travel to the area regularly, while the fourth would likely be available in case of emergency.

The exact details of the arrangement have yet to be worked out, but one immediate benefit of having extra staff members is less stress for the rest of the hospital.

“None of them will be moving here,” he said. “They’ll come out from Reno or Cleveland or wherever, do their 10 days and then fly back home.”

Rohrich said he lent his support to the decision because it was the best of three possible solutions for handling TMH’s patient flow. The alternatives were either hiring a new full-time family physician or making no changes and “monitoring the status quo.”

“That’s the do-nothing plan, and in some cases it’s actually the right thing to do, but not here,” Rohrich said.

Rohrich and chief financial officer Bryan Chalmers provided board members with estimates based on TMH’s September 2010 financial statements.

The approximations weighed the potential costs and benefits that could come from either the hospitalist plan or the family physician.

TMH’s contract with RPG is for $664,000 for one year with biweekly payments, though the hospital can opt out of the deal with 30 days notice. With contractual adjustments and start-up costs, the annual cost for hospitalists would be $627,000 at the most if the hospital’s revenue stay the same.

Based on the same specifics with a physician committed to a three-year contract complete with benefits, TMH would have to pay $826,254 and would have no options to make a change.

Rohrich said the upside to the hospitalist plan would be the ease of pulling out if it doesn’t work out.

“We can’t really tell what will happen for three to six months,” Rohrich said. “The earliest we can start is August. It’s typically a slower month, and it might be a good time to get ready for the change.”

Rohrich said the presence of the hospitalists will allow TMH employees to be more efficient in their work without having to be overworked. The recruitment of future employees will be easier, too, since the hiring process will not involve having to sell doctors on the idea of working the graveyard shift.

While on duty, the hospitalists will live in the building, and, per RPG’s rules, will be restricted to leave for no more than 25 minutes at a time and must always carry a cell phone.

Trustee John Kinkaid expressed concern about whether patients would be able to confer with their personal doctors.

“Family doctors will always have the option to talk with their patients and choose to transfer them to the hospitalists,” Rohrich said.

TMH Chief of Staff Scott Ellis was also spoke in favor of the proposal.

“I think the nicest thing about the program is that physicians can still follow their patients,” he said. “It’s been very well-received by the staff, and I think it’ll have a great impact on the quality of our care. I can’t see this being anything but a win-win for the community and the facility.”

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