had over 23,000 visits last year
The St. Mary’s Hospital clinics hosted over 23,000 patient visits in 2005. According to Theresa Uptmor, SMH Clinics Manager, that is the largest increase in the past five years.
“We were busier than ever and since June we have been functioning with one less physician when Dr. Edwards moved to Texas,” said Uptmor. “We currently have five family practice doctors and two Family Nurse Practitioners and are recruiting heavily for a sixth physician.” In 2004 over 18,000 visits were logged.
In addition to seeing scheduled patients in the clinic during business hours, the providers also round on their hospital inpatients, see urgent care patients and cover the Emergency Room. “Sometimes, in the middle of a hectic day, one of their OB patients goes into labor,” said Shari Kuther, RN, Cottonwood Clinic. “One of the greatest challenges in this setting is trying to keep on schedule. A doctor can have a full day of scheduled patients, but a person will walk in who is in serious distress and need to be seen immediately. It pushes our scheduled patients back, but we have to triage the most serious illnesses or injuries, first.”
According to Uptmor, the doctors rotate call. “Every day we have one physician with a lighter schedule who covers the ER when the need arises and sees the urgent care patients who are unscheduled. We do our very best to make sure every patient is seen in a timely fashion, but we can never predict what will happen each day.”
In addition to employing the doctors, SMHC also has two full time Family Nurse Practitioners on staff. Brenda Hewlett, FNP, practices in the Kamiah Medical Clinic and Megan Wilson, FNP and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, practices in the Craigmont, Kamiah and Cottonwood clinics. “Both Brenda and Megan have really helped our patient load. We’ve had very positive responses from our patients who really appreciate their expertise,” said Uptmor. An FNP has earned at least a Masters degree. In Idaho FNPs must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education credits and a minimum of 200 hours of clinical experience every two years to renew their license. Wilson is also a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.
“Our patients sometimes have to wait a bit past their scheduled appointment and they’ve been very patient because they know that often the doctors have to spend more time with a particular patient. The doctor may be telling patient they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or the doctor may have to run to the ER because someone just broke a hip. From day to day we never know what will present. Health care is not a predictable occupation so we all do the best we can. We appreciate that our patients understand that we have to treat the most serious patients first,” said Kuther. “When we know the doctor is running late we do our best to call the scheduled patients to ask them to come in a bit later, but often they’ve already left for the appointment. We thoroughly apologize, and wish there was a better solution, but, hopefully, everyone recognizes that illnesses and injuries are not predictable.”
Currently on the medical staff at SMHC are Dr. Ronald Sigler; Dr. Andrew Jones; Dr. Teel Bruner; Dr. Jack Secrest, Dr. Haley Minnehan; Brenda Hewlett, FNP and Megan Wilson, FNP, PNP. SMHC has also hired locum tenens or temporary physicians to fill in after Dr. Edwards departure in June.