W.Va. hospital to keep sending patients to Va.

October 07, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

Martinsburg (W.Va.) City Hospital plans to continue sending most of its critically injured patients to a Virginia hospital even though Washington County Hospital, which is closer, reopened its trauma center this week, officials said.

About a year before Washington County temporarily closed its trauma center on June 1, it had forged a formal agreement with Martinsburg City Hospital to accept its trauma patients, doctors at both hospitals said.

But the agreement was never fully realized, they said.

During that time, Washington County only received about 30 patients from the Eastern Panhandle hospital, said Dr. Karl Riggle, the trauma center's administrative director.


According to him, there was no need to reinstate the formal agreement because Inova Fairfax (Va.) had agreed to resume taking the patients. Washington County had agreed to take them because Fairfax had an overcrowding problem at the time, he said.

Dr. Daryl LaRusso, City Hospital's emergency department medical director, said he believes Hagerstown-area doctors don't want to take West Virginia patients because of the medical malpractice issues that have plagued doctors in that state.

"The liability issues in our state - it's like touching a hot potato," he said.

Riggle denied that was the reason.

Washington County will still accept their patients in cases when a helicopter is unable to get the patient to Fairfax fast enough, Riggle said.

Under federal law, a hospital cannot refuse to treat a patient if there's an available bed.

Winchester (Va.) Hospital, which is closer than Inova Fairfax, is developing a trauma program that Martinsburg may eventually seek to use, LaRusso said.

Trauma patients in southcentral Pennsylvania are routinely taken to trauma centers in Hershey, Pa., York, Pa., or the Baltimore-Washington area, said Sheran White, spokeswoman for Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals.

White said those hospitals never had an agreement with Washington County Hospital Trauma Center.

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