Texas County Memorial Hospital concurs with a primary care physician workforce study released last week by the Missouri Hospital Association. It stats that the age, number and type of primary care providers in rural Missouri will present future challenges to rural residents’ access to health services and have negative consequences for rural health improvement efforts.
TCMH was one of the hospitals that the MHA looked at in gathering their findings.
“TCMH is in a federally designated health professional shortage area, and physician recruiting and retention is a top concern at our hospital,” said Wes Murray, chief executive officer at TCMH.
TCMH has several physicians that have been with the hospital for 10 or more years, but they have also experienced physician turnover after physicians have fulfilled requirements for loan repayment or immigration status or when the physician has moved on to fulfill other career goals.
“Every time we offer a contract to a physician, we hope that they will stay with the hospital for their career,” Murray said. “Unfortunately, that’s just not reality in today’s mobile environment.”
Recently, TCMH re-signed one of the hospital’s newer physician recruits – Dr. Charlie Rasmussen, a family medicine physician at the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston. The hospital began recruiting Rasmussen in his second year of residency, in the fall of 2005. He signed a contract with the hospital in January 2007, and he began working at the hospital in August 2007.
Murray described Rasmussen as “a great example” of a successful retention opportunity for TCMH.
“Dr. Rasmussen has built a very successful practice in the four years he’s been here,” Murray said. “He’s been able to take advantage of some federal loan repayment, and he and his family have made a home here in the community He said that hopes he can practice here for a long time.”
Murray knows that ultimately the hospital retains physicians with contracts, but the community also plays a role in retaining physicians.
“Our doctors must receive support from the community for the practice to be successful,” Murray said.
Utilizing local physician services as well as welcoming the physician’s spouse and children are ways that community members help the hospital retain physicians.
“Dr. (Charles) Mueller and Dr. (Steven) Hawkins are examples of physicians that have found long-term success in practicing here because people have consistently used their service and because their families also became very integrated with the community,” Murray explained.
Currently, TCMH is recruiting an additional physician for the TCMH Medical Complex and a full-time physician for the TCMH Mountain Grove Medical Clinic. Site visits are already scheduled with two physicians that have an interest in practicing in a medically underserved area.
In 2010, TCMH welcomed three new physicians – Dr. Schaun Flaim and Dr. Gretchen Price, internal medicine physicians, and Dr. John Paulson, family medicine physician – to the hospital and clinics in Houston and Licking. Each new physician signed multi-year contracts with the hospital, but TCMH officials are already working on ways to retain them when their contracts come up for renewal.
Additionally, Dr. Matthew Brown, family medicine physician, recently joined the St. John’s Clinic in Houston. He is on the TCMH medical staff, providing obstetrics and inpatient care at the hospital as part of his practice.
Working to retain physicians that are not employed by TCMH is also important to the hospital. TCMH tries to work with these physicians to make sure they have all the tools they need in the hospital to provide the best patient care.
TCMH is working on retention of physicians employed by the hospital and retention of other physicians on the medical staff , like Brown and his partner, Dr. Tricia Benoist, with the construction of 59,000 square feet of new patient care areas which include a new emergency department, medical surgical floor and radiology suite.