WINNSBORO — Fairfield Memorial Hospital administration has begun a time of transition as they look to hire doctors employed directly by the hospital to not only treat patients on the floor, but in the emergency department as well.
For the past 10 years, FMH has contracted Pee Dee Emergency Medical Associates to provide physician coverage full-time in the emergency department.
However effective as of May 1, Pee Dee will no longer provide the service and FMH will hire new physicians to provide coverage.
FMH’s long time medical director Larry Cantey officially retired May 1 as well, but will continue to act in the capacity of medical director of the emergency department until a replacement is found.
“Dr. Cantey and the staff of physicians with Pee Dee Emergency Medical Associates have done an excellent job and they will be greatly missed by many,” FMH CEO Mike Williams said.
Cantey had provided services through contract employment to FMH for eight years.
Five hospitals in South Carolina have recently changed their emergency department staffing group.
As of June 1, Kershaw County Memorial Hospital will transition to a new group as well.
The administrative staff at FMH explored several options to staff the emergency department and recently decided to hire it own physicians, which is trend for small rural hospitals.
Hospitals employing its own physicians is a more cost efficient method and Williams believes it will benefit county residents to have a set staff in place that is familiar with the community.
To date, FMH has hired two physicians who will begin their transition to the department in the near future.
The hospital is also using a staffing firm — Locum Tenens — to provide coverage.
Williams noted that the hospital’s goal is to staff the emergency department with its own employees by the end of July 2014.
“Although we at Fairfield Memorial Hospital hope you will not have a need for our emergency department services, we do hope that you will consider using our services,” he stated. “It is our hope that changes in the staff will also bring changes in the services received at Fairfield Memorial.”
During the transition period, the emergency department will not experience any interruption in services and will continue to have full-time physician coverage.
Radiology and lab services will remain as well.
Other services available in the emergency department include the tele-psychiatric services and the tele-stroke program to assist in the early diagnosis of patients with stroke-like symptoms.
The easy transfer to other facilities will also still be available.
Despite the changes, patients should not see any change in the services available at FMH, according to Williams.
After treating patients, Williams said FMH staff will begin guiding them to find a permanent medical home.
“A lot of patients just come into the emergency room and don’t have a medical home,” he explained. “We want to help them find a medical home because its very critical.”
Beginning June 1, patients using emergency department services will submit an attestation form indicating if they have either received explanation of coverages or applied for coverages since Oct. 1, 2013.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the form will help hospitals keep track of patients who are uninsured and why they’re uninsured.
Hospital staff recently met a goal of signing up 300 patients for the patient portal, which is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information such as recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, medications, immunizations, allergies or lab results.
After obtaining their goal, Williams noted FMH administration has moved the target goal now to sign up 600 patients for the patient portal.