Olympic Medical seeks surgeon, aims to maintain trauma capability

PORT ANGELES — With one of its four general surgeons stepping down next spring, Olympic Medical Center is ramping up a recruiting efforts to maintain its status as having Level 3 trauma capability.

Level 3 trauma capability means OMC has round-the-clock emergency room service and a general surgeon on call to make the best use of that precious “golden hour” after a trauma occurs.

Dr. Scott Kennedy, chief medical officer at OMC, said that trauma capability is “incredibly valuable” to the North Olympic Peninsula.

“There’s a growing demand for general surgeons,” Kennedy said in Wednesday’s board meeting.

“It might be a time when where we’re looking at succession issues of retirement and other reasons for needing more general surgeons.

“Unfortunately, in the light of that, we’re seeing fewer general surgeons trained.”

About 300 of the 1,200 medical students who start down the general surgery path every year actually become general surgeons.

“It’s just essential to have good general surgeons in communities of our size,” Kennedy said.

“When you think about colorectal cancer, breast cancer care, that’s a large part of what makes up the general surgeon’s day and week and year in this setting. They do a very good job.”

Dr. James Flowers will either retire or take an extended break in April, Kennedy said.

“We’ve activated our recruitment team and effort to recruit a general surgeon to replace Dr. Flowers,” Kennedy said.

“There’s a good number of conversations going on.”

The other three general surgeons are independent physicians who are affiliated with OMC.

Recruitment cost

It generally takes between $50,000 to $100,000 to recruit a general surgeon to a rural area.

“It’s a very expensive process, but a critical service, one that the community literally could not live without,” Kennedy said.

Mary Romstadt, surgical services director, gave a service update showing that revenue for all surgeries is expected to hit $25 million by the end of 2009.

It had hovered around $20 million over the past three years.

“I believe that we have the technology and the expertise to provide safe patient care that truly rivals any hospital in the Seattle area,” Romstadt said.

Major plans for OMC surgery include the recruitment of new surgeons, upgrading surgical video equipment and community education, according to Romstadt’s report.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

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