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Letters to the Editor 6/28

June 28, 2002

Hospital committed to quality health care



To the editor:

Over the last several weeks, there has been a good deal of media coverage regarding the temporary suspension of Washington County Hospital's trauma program. Unfortunately, from our perspective, significant pieces of the story did not make the news. We would like to share additional information with your readers.

Since our designation as a level two trauma program in 1996, the hospital has maintained all of the requirements for the designation despite significant cost in medical staff and hospital resources.

Trauma surgeons have been in the hospital 24 hours a day, every day for the last six years. In addition, round-the-clock, seven days a week, other dedicated members of the medical staff and hospital employees provided care for those who were critically injured or ill.

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The hospital's medical staff and administration have worked together to provide all of the resources required by state regulations to operate a trauma program. But, in a non-urban setting, operating a trauma program puts a special burden on trauma surgeons and other sub-specialty physicians. They are responsible not only for their own private practices, but also for rotating calls for the trauma program. The resources they had are exhausted. We cannot ask them to continue to bear this burden without a commitment to finding a model trauma program that suits the needs of our community.

Many people have suggested that the hospital recruit additional physicians. Recruiting physicians in specialized areas of training is not as easy as it may first appear. It is a mistake to believe that physician compensation is the primary focus of negotiations; it is only one of several concerns.

As important, is the level of practice the physician can expect the number of patients he or she will see, the types and severity of the cases. These factors gauge the likelihood of using specialized training.

Last year, of the 744 patients who came through the trauma program, 492 needed to be admitted for follow-up care. Of those, only 92 required surgical intervention by specialists such as orthopedists, neurosurgeons and plastic surgeons. These numbers indicate that it may be difficult to recruit specialty physicians if there are not sufficient patients being admitted to the trauma program who require highly specialized care.

In our emergency department, dedicated, caring and highly-trained healthcare staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have maintained round-the-clock coverage of anesthesia, CT scan, lab and radiology services. We also continue to call on the other members of the trauma team - such as social work and pastoral care staff - to care for our patients as we have in the past.

We will continue to deliver round-the-clock care provided by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare team members whose excellent clinical skills are matched by their determination to ensure that all patients receive the level of care they need.

Washington County Hospital medical staff and administration are working diligently to determine what trauma program model best suits the needs of our region.

The hospital's board of directors approved the formation of a multi-disciplinary ad hoc committee comprised of medical staff and hospital representatives as well as governmental and emergency services representatives to help in this task. National specialists in level two and level three trauma programs will also participate in the evaluation process. We hope to have a proposed model later this summer.

As we work toward defining the appropriate level of service for a trauma program in our community, we want your readers to know that Washington County Hospital and its medical staff are committed to providing the best possible program we can. We believe it is an essential element in the healthcare services we offer for the well-being of the residents in our region.

James P. Hamill

President and CEO

Abdul Waheed

Chief of Medical Staff

Washington County Hospital

Hagerstown

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