Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Use hospital, doctor urges

Leader staff writer

Dr. Alan Storeygard, a longtime family-practice physician and Jacksonville community member, in an interview last week was glad to go on record as “a cheerleader” for North Metro Medical Center. He advocated that anyone else who wants the facility to continue as an acute care provider needs to support the hospital, which currently is struggling financially.

“That means people in our community with other types of insurance need to utilize our hospital rather than going to Sherwood, Little Rock and North Little Rock for types of services North Metro can provide,” Storeygard said.

Hospital CEO Scott Landrum has said that the hospital’s financial struggles stem from the low reimbursement rate by Medicare, Medicaid and TriCare insurance providers. A large proportion of North Metro patients rely on these public rather than commercial insurers, and the hospital has to write off hundreds of thousands of dollars in bad debt.

Storeygard wanted to be clear that he was speaking as a private citizen and a physician, and not as a spokesman for the hospital or the physicians’ hospital organization, for which he has been chairman of the board for 10 years. He has practiced as a family physician in Jacksonville since 1981.

Storeygard does not want to see emergency and acute care services discontinued at North Metro because of the critical time that would add to travel what would be the nearest emergency room six miles away in Sherwood, at St. Vincent Medical Center North.

Having a local emergency room has meant a lot to Storeygard personally on several occasions, when he needed swift medical care.

He credits North Metro doctors and nurses with saving his eyesight when he was nearly blinded in a farm accident in which he got lye in his eyes.

A couple of other accidents resulting in broken bones and lacerations to his hand and wrist left Storeygard, a professional musician, wondering if he would ever play piano again. But both times, care provided at North Metro had “great results,” he said.

Storeygard wants the community to know about the services available at the hospital and its clinic across the street.

Specialty care at the hospital does not include neurosurgery or heart surgery, he noted, but does include many other types of surgery – vascular, chest, urology, orthopedic, and general abdominal.

“The hospital takes care of some of the sickest members of our community with very complex problems, multiple problems,” he said.

The clinic is “one of the largest family-practice clinics in the state with 12 family-practice physicians,” he said.

“People don’t realize what we have here,” the doctor said.

If acute-care services were discontinued at North Metro, Storeygard worries that elderly patients and others on a fixed income would be faced with the expense of longer drives to get access to services.

Then there is the economic impact to the community to consider. North Metro is one of the largest employers in the area, and discontinuing some services may put some folks out of work. And having a hospital is important so that “the community can continue to grow, not be stagnant,” Storeygard said.

“Jacksonville is more likely to attract business and new growth if we have a hospital here,” he said.

Storeygard values the emergency room being right across the street from his practice, too, because at least once a week a clinic patient must be transported to the ER by ambulance.

“A lot of people walk in, thinking what they have is minor, but it is not, like chest pain that turns out to be a heart attack, and they can’t even drive in their own car,” he said.

Storeygard hopes others who live in and around Jacksonville will stop and think what it would mean if North Metro stopped providing emergency and acute-care services.

“If there was ever a time to get behind and support your hospital, it’s now,” the doctor said.