Monday, October 5, 2009

Somerville Hospital official: Ambulances coming back

Dr. Assaad Sayah under a poster honoring Somerville Hospital.

(This story confuses me. My husband and I were really blessed to have our only medical emergency before the hospital closed the in-patient wing in July. What would we do now? And, if we had a 'pediatric or neurological emergency' as the article states, would we be risking our lives if we got sent here by ambulance?) reports:

The head of emergency medicine at Somerville Hospital says that patients are arriving via ambulance regularly, after a slight dip this summer, when the hospital stopped offering in-patient treatment for budgetary reasons.

Arrivals fell by 5 to 10 percent after the in-patient wing closed in July, according to Dr. Assaad Sayah, who blamed the lull on a "miscommunication" between the hospital and paramedic companies.

"They had questions about the [quality of] care," Sayah said. "But we've proven that the care is appropriate."

Cataldo Ambulance Service, Inc., the hospital's main provider, declined comment on Tuesday.
But Sayah said ambulances are running at full throttle, because under the new system, individuals requiring in-patient admittance are quickly transferred to Cambridge Hospital, which like Somerville belongs to the Cambridge Health Alliance. And, Sayah said, transfers jump to the front of the line for beds when they arrive.

"We did that because we wanted people to feel as comfortable [checking into Somerville] as in other places," he said.

Patients go to Whidden Hospital in Everett - another Alliance partner - if Cambridge is full, and the same transfer policy applies.

Assaad said 9 percent of Somerville's roughly 23,000 patients require admittance each year.

Somerville patients are transferred out of the Alliance network if they require neurological or pediatric intensive care, and in that case, they don't have priority on a bed.

But about 90 to 95 percent of in-patient cases remain in the network, according to Dr. Christopher Grieves, who works in the emergency department in Somerville.