Diamond said most, but not all, physicians use the service, though some that don’t can find themselves having to use it, because they may be part of a private doctor group that rotates hospital visitation responsibilities.
“Now what happened is that some of the internal medicine doctors, or primary care, wanted to keep seeing their patients, but their call group all signed up so … they felt they were forced [to use the hospitalists], not by us, but by their call group. We had nothing to do with their call group. So that’s the reason.”
The hospitalist programs are apparently becoming more common throughout the county.
“The family practice and internists came to us and said, ‘This is a better program.’ The quality of care goes up and … their length of stay goes down, which is positive. Costs go down, and it’s a system that nationwide is kind of best practices,” Claunch said. “The other thing is these family practice and internists will make more money in their office then they will in the hospital. It’s economics today. So they approached us.”
“Well, it’s coming down from the docs, and not from the patients,” Hendry remarked. “The patients kind of get lost in the shuffle, you know I understand it sitting here, but boy people just don’t get that.”
The commission also inquired about the future direction of WMC, in light of the failure of an anticipated merger with Cheyenne Medical Center when Cheyenne pulled back.
“The board is going to sit down and next month kind of say OK, where do we go from here? And if we want to do some type of a partnership, what does the partnership look like?” Diamond said. “So we’ll be making a decision. We’re actually, now, being actively pursued by organizations to partner with, and we’re willing to listen to what they have to offer. Then we are, the board is, going to make a decision related to what kind of partnership we want.”
“It’s a high priority for us to figure out what are we going to do when we grow up?” commented WMC board member Chris Muirhead. “We need to look at what’s going to happen in the next 25 years, and I would say it’s our number one priority to design a plan and set up a framework to function in, [to] keep this medical machine that we have, this economic machine, in our community, and keep it going, thriving and continuing. I don’t think we want to sell our hospital. I don’t think that’s in our best interests. I don’t think we want to become a railroad station or a support station, where you just treat and then you transport to a tertiary center. We want to be the tertiary center, and so we’re going to strive and look at what we can do.”
Muirhead also said they’ll be changing how they conduct their board meetings by eliminating the quarterly meeting to which the public is invited, and instead have one session per year where WMC will give a larger public presentation.
“The intent of that [quarterly meeting] was to allow members of the community to come forth and discuss issues that they had with the hospital board directly,” Muirhead explained. “The truth is, over the last five years, the participation of that is just abysmal. Our last public meeting last month we had zero participation from the public. We rarely have any … the truth is, we’re not really effectively communicating with the public by using this quarterly meeting.”
The WMC board initiated the once-a-quarter public meetings at 7 a.m. in 2006, following concerns over its relationship with the community and the county. The county commissioners at the time were displeased at the lack of meaningful and timely communication by the WMC board on such things as multi-million dollar additions to the hospital, and private, for-profit, ventures being started by the decidedly not-for-profit WMC.