Glens Falls Hospital needs to tell the community it serves what its plans are for the future, whether it will be in the primary care business and if more changes are coming that will affect residents.
An update on its financial condition might be appreciated as well.
Six months ago, a Post-Star reporter began hearing from hospital patients and those that work at the hospital about reductions in the primary care work force — doctors, physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners — along with concerns that some facilities might close.
An initial trickle of complaints has become a steady stream that culminated last Sunday in the finding that 40 percent (16 of 40) of the general practitioners at the hospital had left, and it did not appear the hospital was taking steps to replace them.
One doctor who still works at the hospital agreed to talk to us only if we agreed not to identify him.
“With the attrition of both providers and ancillary staff, the burden on those remaining is unhealthy,” he told Post-Star reporter Kathleen Moore. “I stayed because these are my friends, neighbors and community that I provide care for.
“Unfortunately, there is no aspect of the system that is not broken, with no answer for a fix,” the doctor continued. “I still see these people daily, and I feel like I’m abandoning them. I will always be concerned for their well-being. For now, I have to take care of myself.”
Of course the key word there is “unhealthy.”
That is a chilling assessment, if accurate, and while one disgruntled employee is always a possibility, this doctor seemed credible to us.
Others who work at the hospital have also spoken to Moore, and no one has characterized the situation as business as usual.
We again ask the hospital to explain what is happening, because this time the problem goes beyond a bad business plan or a malfunctioning billing system. This time it directly affects the health care of local residents.
The community especially needs to hear from CEO Dianne Shugrue.
When our reporter first asked hospital officials about the turnover, Vice President of Planning Tracy Mills said the hospital had hired 38 new providers — physicians and physician assistants — since 2018, and that their overall employment had remained steady, but none of the new hires appear to be in primary care.
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Follow-up questions from Moore, asking if any were in primary care, were not answered. Perhaps new hires have been made for positions at the new surgical center because it could be more lucrative for the hospital.
If the hospital is getting out of the primary care business as part of an adjustment to its business model, it is imperative to communicate that to the residents it serves.
Mills insisted that “if there are changes” to staffing, they would be “communicated to patients and community in a timely manner.”
That does not appear to be the case regarding primary care staffing.
Several patients told Moore they had not heard from the hospital about their doctor leaving, three in a facility waiting room said they did not know their doctor had left and one member of our editorial board said he had no notice of his doctor leaving either.
One day after making the case that staffing levels had remained steady, Mills emailed Moore that 40 percent turnover was not unusual and that nothing is different from past years.
Except that patients who have talked to our reporter say they have seen longtime doctors leave and patients often have to wait months for primary care appointments.
It raises the question of whether the hospital is getting out of the primary care business.
Does it plan on closing any other facilities?
And has it reduced the pay of the primary care providers?
The hospital should address those questions because it directly affects the medical care that residents need and expect.
The hospital’s continued cloak and dagger approach to its future and how its mission will change in the community needs to end.
It needs to be upfront with a community that has always supported it. The community deserves better.