LCH Announces Partnership with journeyMED

By Betty Nelson

Lindsborg News Record, February 2011

In a highly competitive, unpredictable health care market, patient satisfaction and service are key to sustainability for a critical access hospital and rural health clinic. The Administration and Boards of Directors for the LCH/LRHC are working to develop and implement plans to provide increased physician access resulting in improved patient service and convenience.

An exhaustive cost benefit analysis in 2010 resulted in several changes in the hospital and clinic. A persistent concern continues to be patient inconvenience and the loss of physician access for patients due to the retirement of Dr. Duane Fredrickson in January, 2010.

Drs. Nickel, Loder and Dolezal, and physician assistants Chezna Warner and Sheri Floyd, have assumed the care for most of Fredrickson's former patients, many with a 40 year history under his care. The five medical providers have also shared in holiday, evening and weekend "call" and emergency room coverage, in addition to making hospital rounds and meeting the demands of practicing family medicine in a busy clinic. Add to that the rigors of mandated technology changes with the implementation of the electronic medical records in both the hospital and clinic, and threatened decreases in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

In January, physician schedules changed, eliminating the burden of weekend call and increasing the availability for clinic patients with increased accessibility on weekdays and Saturday mornings. As a part of this change, a locum tenens physician (a physician serving as temporary relief) will provide emergency room coverage on weekends, from 8am Saturdays through 8 am Monday mornings. This will, in turn, free a local medical provider to see scheduled and non-emergency patients in the clinic on Saturday mornings from 9-noon.

Locum coverage is not new for LCH/LRHC. Locum tenens physicians have provided vacation, extended leave and holiday relief for LCH/LRHC physicians for many years. The difference with the new arrangement is a contract with journeyMED, a company specializing in providing locum tenens services. journeyMed owner Dr. Mark Wiles is no stranger to the people and patients of the Smoky Valley. A 1996 graduate of Bethany College, Dr. Wiles provided locum services to LCH/LRHC when employed by the Salina Clinic as a family practice physician.

Wiles or other locum physicians from journeyMed will provide care for anyone seeking emergency room services from 8 am Saturday through 8 am Monday. With hospital privileges, the ER physician may admit patients, if indicated and also provide inpatient physician care.

With Saturday morning Lindsborg Rural Health Clinic appointments underway, and a successful re-arrangement of weekend emergency room coverage, the focus will soon be shifting to the development of an urgent care clinic. Administration, medical staff and hospital staff will begin work to develop and implement a local, hospital-based week-end urgent care clinic for the people of the Smoky Valley.

Increasing physician availability for patient convenience and expanding services in order to provide needed coverage are primary goals in achieving the sustainability for the hospital and clinic.

"Every day we have the chance to reflect on our mission and why we are here. It is to best serve the people of the Smoky Valley" states CEO Larry Van Der Wege. It is a good feeling to know that we are there for each other, that a personal contact with a neighbor or a friend can make a difference."

Lindsborg Community Hospital and Rural Health Care are those people, there to make a difference.