Sharing Emergency Physicians Helps Miles, St. Andrews Maintain High Standard of Care
DAMARISCOTTA - In Dr. Mark Fourre’s two decades as an emergency
physician, the number of patients treated in emergency departments in Maine and nationwide has increased steadily while patients’ conditions have become progressively more serious.
Those trends have affected emergency departments everywhere, causing overcrowding and the need for newer and more expensive technologies as well as a shortage of trained emergency physicians.
While Miles and LincolnHealth – St. Andrews Campuss have been able to avoid the overcrowding that affects many urban medical centers, the challenge of
recruiting is one of the main reasons the two hospitals began sharing emergency physicians last year, said Dr. Fourre, Director of both the Miles and St. Andrews Emergency Departments.
By sharing physicians and a single management structure, the two emergency departments gain flexibility in scheduling and are also better able to recruit doctors by combining resources.
A joint management structure enables the two departments to develop common approaches to quality, education and administration, allowing greater consistency in the way conditions are addressed at the two facilities.
“Whether we are taking care of a stroke, a heart attack, or pneumonia, we want to be sure we are all doing the same thing and we are all doing the right thing,” said Dr. Fourre.
That consistency is increasingly important as the communities served by the hospitals age.
Lincoln County’s population has the highest average age of any county in Maine, the oldest state in the nation, according to the latest full census.
An aging population means more patients with complex medical conditions, including many with more than one serious condition, such as heart disease complicated by diabetes.
In the past four years alone, the number of Miles Emergency Department patients whose condition is serious enough to cause them to be admitted to the hospital after initial treatment in the emergency department has increased 40 percent.
Sharing resources and policies helps both hospitals deliver the highest possible standard of care while making the best possible use of scarce resources.
As members of MaineHealth, the two emergency departments also have access to subspecialties and extremely high levels of technology that will allow them to continue to offer a high standard of care while maintaining a tradition of personal service, something that is increasingly rare in emergency departments.
The ability to spend time with patients at Miles and St. Andrews results in a more satisfying experience for both patients and doctors and has helped recruit doctors to the hospitals, including Dr. Fourre, who came to Miles three and-a-half years ago from Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was Director of the Residency Program.
Dr. Fourre grew up and went to medical school in Minnesota. While he was in medical school, he imagined himself working as a rural family physician.
“This was a way of getting back to my original intent,” said Dr. Fourre.