Hospital working to address ER staffing problems

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Roosevelt General Hospital administrator James D’Agostino told hospital board members he is making a vigorous review of the hospital’s emergency room physician contract services after problems last week.

D’Agostino said he made the decision to go on diversion (refer emergency room patients) to Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis after the contract service informed him it didn’t have a doctor to cover a single shift Tuesday night and Wednesday morning July 24-25.

“Before we diverted, we called 17 practitioners,” D’Agostino said. “We didn’t take it lightly.”

D’Agostino told board members at Tuesday’s monthly meeting at the hospital he was in contact with five ER contract service providers looking for options and was also actively discussing the situation with the current provider.

“I’m not happy we didn’t have a physician,” D’Agostino said. “But we diverted, and if it happens again we’ll divert again.”

Board member Terry Cone said he had been following the problem closely and knew D’Agostino and his staff were working diligently to make sure the ER was covered. Cone asked Covenant Healthcare Senior Vice President Jim Wurtis, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s board meeting, if Covenant had New Mexico-certified doctors in Lubbock that could be pressed into action if a similar situation arises again.

Wurtis said he couldn’t guarantee anything, but would try to help out if the need arises. He said he would also forward a list of doctors with New Mexico certification.

Covenant manages RGH under a contract with the hospital district.

“You’re not in this one by yourself,” Wurtis said. “The pool of doctors is getting burned out. You (hospitals) have lots of problems now with emergency services.”

In other business, the board:

• Heard a report on the hospital-based rural health clinic, which is being fully certified for Medicare. CFO Eva Stevens said that process should be complete by December. Until then she expects to continue showing a financial loss on paper for the clinic — something the board had previously approved. Once certifications are complete, D’Agostino said the hospital side of the budget would be reimbursed.

• Heard a report on the master plan and expansion process. D’Agostino said he is not completely satisfied with relocation of a nurse’s station in the latest set of plans. Security measures with that relocation were his chief concern.

• Approved credentialing for seven physicians.

• Approved changes to the employee handbook.