Mercy-BV administrator points to positives

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Despite some recent headlines regarding cutbacks in services, administrator Doug Stroemel says Mercy Hospital in Berryville is focused on the future, and he pointed to a number of positive developments to back up his point.

"I can unequivocally say that the hospital is here to stay, and we continue to search for ways that we can serve the community," Stroemel said in a telephone interview Friday, July 8.

Stroemel said he understands that Carroll County residents may be concerned about the hospital's future after Mercy stopped providing emergency ambulance service in March and confirmed last week that it will eliminate its home health and hospice services effective Sept. 1. But he said those decisions reflect a challenging environment for all health-care providers and were made with the hospital's long-term success in mind.

"Certainly when those decisions are made, they are vetted thoroughly," Stroemel said. "One aspect that I'm guessing many members of the community aren't completely familiar with is the challenges in reimbursement that all health-care providers are now faced with."

Stroemel pointed out that approximately 45 percent of the hospital's patients are covered by Medicare, with another 14 percent covered by Medicaid.

"When you start talking about cuts to Medicare, it affects almost half our patients," he said.

Still, Stroemel said he isn't surprised by citizens who are worried about the hospital's future.

"I certainly understand where (the public's concern) has come from," he said. "When you look at some of the things that have occurred recently ... the community sees and hears all the things that we've reduced."

What the public may not realize, Stroemel said, is some of the more positive developments, such as the addition of a group of surgeons from Northwest Arkansas who visit the hospital on a regular basis and perform a variety of surgeries in Berryville. Surgeons Robert Dorman, James Irwin and Mark Perna alternate weekly seeing patients in Berryville. Dr. William Flake, who has been the general surgeon at Mercy Berryville since 1981, continues to perform surgeries here as well.

Another recent development is the offering of endoscopic procedures on Saturdays once a month. Dr. Hunter Judkins has been performing the procedures on Saturdays for the past three months, and Stroemel said the response has been tremendous. Performing the procedures on the weekends, he said, allows patients to avoid having to take time off from work.

"We're just amazed at how well that's been received," he said.

Stroemel pointed to a multitude of specialty care services that are available at Mercy Berryville.

"It's alway been our goal to provide great quality care close to home," he said.

Stroemel named several specialists who regularly see patients in Berryville: cardiologist Dr. Larry Weathers; otolaryngologist Dr. Scott Estrem; neurologist Dr. David Brown; internist and sleep disorder specialist Dr. Blake Little, who serves as medical director of the sleep center at Mercy Berryville; nephrologist Dr. Avin Rekhi; ophthalmologist Dr. Warren Collins; podiatrist Dr. Charles Ginn; and rheumatologist Dr. Ronald Rubio.

"People can come and see these physicians right here in Berryville," Stroemel said. "Along those lines. we are having discussions with two groups of pulmonologists to establish an outreach clinic in Berryville."

Telemedicine is another emerging technology that is available at Mercy Berryville. This allows patients in Berryville to receive treatment directed by a physician at another Mercy facility, such as Rogers or Springfield, Mo. This can be especially helpful in diagnosing and treating potential strokes, where time is critical.

"It brings that neurologist right to the patient's bedside," Stroemel said. "Then the doctor can help make a diagnosis and determine a pathway for treatment for that patient."

Stroemel also said a new family practice physician will be joining the Mercy Berryville team next summer. Dr. Dean Turbeville, a native of Nashville, Ark., and a graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is currently completing his family medicine residency at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Ind., and will join Mercy's Berryville clinic in July 2017.

"That's exciting to have a new physician coming on board," Stroemel said. "They are very sought-after. We think he's going to be a great fit for Mercy and a wonderful fit for the community."

Stroemel added that Mercy is looking to hire an additional nurse practitioner in Berryville and expects to sign an emergency department physician soon, as well.

"There's a lot of things happening in the background," he said.

Mercy also plans to spend more than $600,000 in the current fiscal year on new and updated equipment, ranging from HVAC equipment to updated exercise equipment for the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program to updated call lights.

"We're unequivocally committed to continuing to meet the health-care needs of this community," Stroemel said.

Stroemel also noted that Mercy Berryville is accredited by the Joint Commission -- widely recognized as the gold standard for health-care accreditation.

"There are 1,332 critical-access hospitals in the United States and only about 35 percent of those are Joint Commission-accredited."

In closing, Stroemel pointed to Mercy's mission statement: "As the Sisters of Mercy before us, we bring to life the healing ministry of Jesus through our compassionate care and exceptional service."

"Our mission says it all," Stroemel said.

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