McCurtain Memorial limits surgical procedures

- For Immediate Release -

On Wednesday, April 20, 2022, McCurtain Memorial Hospital administration announced that surgical procedures were being limited effective April 29, 2022.

MMH has contracted with three surgeons for many months from a Locum Tenens group and OU Health. While the surgeons have provided exceptional services to MMH, the cost to the Hospital is not sustainable. The three surgeons cost the Hospital over $1.2 million per year.

In addition to the surgeons, the Hospital employs a Director of Surgical Services; several registered nurses as scrub technicians and circulators - along with a contracted Anesthesia group. This equates to an additional $500,000 a year, or more.

The Hospital underwent an administration change in February 2022 and immediately began assessing its spending. Many changes that resulted in significant savings were made and this current decision to limit surgical procedures was another made in an effort to be financially prudent. The Hospital was forced to pay the surgeons often for several days without a single procedure occurring due to their contracts.

On average, the surgeons cost the Hospital over $2,000 per day. For a significant period of time, one to three procedures a week were being performed. This doesn’t allow the Hospital to even come close to breaking even.

“The previous administration was undoubtedly ambitious with many of its decisions,” Interim CEO Brian Whitfield said, “but little thought seemed to be given on how to sustain some of those ambitions.” A large bulk of the Hospital’s operations were contracted out to companies all over the country and those contracts came at a brutal price to the Hospital.

One example was contract nursing.

Contract nurses came at a $2.5 million price tag based on just ten contracts. Interim CEO Brian Whitfield has eliminated all but two of these contracts since his arrival at MMH - with the remaining ending within weeks.

MMH is a Critical Access Hospital - a status reserved for really small, rural hospitals. “These small facilities were not intended to operate as Regional Medical Centers with full-time surgical programs.” Whitfield said.

“We have to focus on what we’re really good at and be smart enough to recognize when another facility is more appropriate.” Whitfield continued.

As a result of the recent changes, the contracted surgeons will end their work on April 29, 2022. This measure does not stop all surgical procedures.

Dr. William Herron, a longtime McCurtain County Family Medicine physician will continue to deliver babies and perform emergency c-sections, along with other interventional procedures. Beth Stroud, Director of Surgical Services at MMH, will continue to oversee the Department and will assist in other areas of the Hospital as a seasoned nurse. Her team will also continue to assist in deliveries and c-sections - as well as assist in the Emergency Room and other areas of the Hospital. Not one job was lost as a result of the decision.

OU Health understood the Hospitals decision and has committed to help in any way they can if the time comes when a full-time surgery program can be sustained.

The MMH emergency room sees just short of 16,000 visits per year and the physicians and nursing staff continue to be committed to providing care to the people of McCurtain County.

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