Doctors hired in Camrose to specialize in hospital care

St. Mary’s Hospital in Camrose has a different approach to caring for its patients. Instead of family doctors in the community looking after their patients in the facility, four hospitalists have been hired to do this work.

“The hospitalist program is a new way of taking care of inpatients. The way things were traditionally done in Camrose was we had 17 family physicians who would come in and do rounds with the patients in the morning, run back to their clinic and run a morning clinic,” explains Dr. Lindsay Bick, physician lead for the hospitalist program.

Physicians would return to the hospital at lunch or in the evenings to see their patients again.

“What we have done is instead of 17 physicians coming to rounds on 50 patients, we have dedicated two physicians that are on site throughout the entire day. They take care of the inpatients,” says Dr. Bick.

The hospitalists have the time to review patients’ lab results and meet with family members to explain the care, and they can help out if there is a trauma in the emergency department. Any information about patients is relayed back to their family doctor by the hospitalist. The hospitalists work in teams of two, with one week on and one week off.

The program—a partnership between Alberta Health, the Camrose Primary Care Network (PCN) and Covenant Health—was developed in 2011 but it took until last year for it to get underway.

“There was a concern at first that patients may not like the program because they were not seeing their family doctor in the hospital,” says Cherylyn Antymniuk, Site Administrator at St. Mary’s.

“I’ve had the opportunity to visit patients. They are talking about how much time the hospitalist spends with the family. Some of our patients have talked about the excellent care they have been getting.”

Hospitalist Dr. Martin Botha visits with patient Margaret McIver.

Margaret McIver, 93, has been in and out of St. Mary’s because of her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchitis. She’s used to seeing her family doctor in the hospital but has adapted to the change.

“It was hard at first at my age to get used to more than one doctor. But it’s working out beautifully. The doctors come and see me every day. I couldn’t ask for better care. The doctors have been good to me,” says Margaret.

“Patients appreciate the continuity of having the same physician throughout their stay at the hospital. They appreciate that the hospitalists are having conversations and communicating directly with their own family physicians,” says Stacey Strilchuk, Executive Director of Camrose PCN.

For those who don’t have a family doctor, there is a followup clinic based in the PCN where the hospitalists will see patients to ensure they are doing well after their hospital discharge and link them up with a community family physician for ongoing care.

“It’s really a comprehensive program making sure that everyone’s needs are met constantly,” says Cherylyn.

Camrose and Bonnyville Health Centre are the only rural hospitals in Alberta with this type of program.

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