Topeka hospitals are offering reassurances about the people in place to help patients in an emergency. However, they say there is a need to recruit more people to the health care field.
It stems from testimony before a Kansas House subcommittee Monday. A Kansas City-area doctor told lawmakers shortages in the medical field made Topeka's two hospitals unable to have neurosurgeons available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The situation meant patients might be transferred to Kansas City, delaying urgent care and possibly impacting the patient's health.
Dr. Kevin Dishman, medical director of the Stormont-Vail Hospitalist Program, says the situation was true in the past. However, he says Stormont-Vail recognized the issue and aggressively recruited neurosurgeons. Today, he says, Stormont has two neurosurgeons and, since Oct. 1, have provided 24/7 neurosurgeon coverage.
Having a neurosurgeon available at all times is important, Dr. Dishman says, because of the wide range of areas they address. For example, he says, they might handle strokes and brain tumors; they might be involved in cases of bleeding resulting from a car crash or fall or bicycle accident; they might be called in on blunt force trauma.
Dr. Dishman says in any of those cases, time is of the essence and if the services aren't available, there will be delays in treatment. Because of the neurosurgery coverage, he says, there are very few reasons now why a patient would have to be transferred out of the Topeka community for treatment. He says Stormont has worked to address issues so they can provide immediate care without delay.
Saint Francis Health Center also has two neurosurgeons available during the week, but spokesperson Kim Gronniger says they are without neurosurgeon coverage on weekends. However, she says a system is in place for ER doctors to assess all patients, and get them the care they need. If that calls for a neurosurgeon, they often transfer to KU Med or Saint Luke's in Kansas City, but they'll also transfer down the street to Stormont in critical cases.
Dishman says improved facilities and a supportive atmosphere have made it easier to attract specialists to Topeka, but there are needs. Gronniger put nurses, neurologists and anesthesiologists among the areas of most need.
The Kansas Health Policy Authority has made recruitment of health care professionals one of its priorities.