On site, not on call: Hospital hires doctor firm to staff ER
On his first day at Eureka Springs Hospital, Dr. Les Sessions was on duty at 7 a.m. His first patient arrived at 11 a.m. By the time the last patient left at 8 p.m., he had treated four more people for maladies ranging from coughs and congestion to car-accident injuries.
Then, like the Michael J. Fox character in "Doc Hollywood," he bedded down in the hospital, rising to see his first patient at 6 a.m. the next day.
Dr. Sessions is the co-founder of the Sessions Group, which on Oct. 1, started providing doctors to staff the emergency department at Eureka Springs Hospital 24/7. The hospital previously had on-site ER doctors only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, relying on local physicians who were on-call to cover the other four days of the week.
What the new arrangement heralds: shorter waiting times in the emergency room and less disruption of local doctors' appointment schedules.
"We anticipate it's going to shorten not only your wait time, but your length of stay, from the time you get to the hospital, are seen by a physician and treated, and your disposition," said Vicki Andert, director of nursing.
Primary-care physicians will continue to treat patients who are admitted to the hospital, CEO Chris Bariola said. Response from local doctors has been positive.
"We're literally thrilled about it," said Dr. Dan Bell of Washington Regional Family Clinic. "It's a good thing for the community and a good for the docs in town. We won't have to stop what we're doing in the clinic and run across town."
The Sessions Group doctors are all experienced ER physicians who will work two to three days at a time, Sessions said. They are used to seeing 40 to 50 patients a day, he said, so working several days in a row and sleeping on site is no problem.
"I slept all night," he said of his first 24 hours on duty.
Based in Little Rock, the Sessions Group provides physicians for critical care hospitals, preferably emergency rooms, Sessions said, with a pool of 75 doctors. Which ones will be working at the Eureka Springs Hospital ER on a regular basis is something that will develop in the next few months.
"We basically focus on each hospital individually, which we will do with this one," he said. "Each hospital has different needs. Each hospital has a different personality."
A native of Dumas, Sessions is a 1974 graduate of the University of Arkansas College of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock, where he was director of the emergency department for 15 years. He estimates he has seen 60,000 patients in his 30 years in emergency medicine.
"It's what I do," he said. "I had a lot of training at St. Vincent, and it suits me. I like to see different things."
The Eureka Springs ER doctors treat Level IV traumas: wounds, broken bones, sprains, car-accident injuries, coronary-pulmonary distress, as well as conduct initial evaluations and stabilizations of serious injuries. Sessions said he is an expert in brown-recluse spider bites, having probably treated more of them than an other doctor in the country. Snake bites are rare, he said -- he has treated a person with anti-venom once in three decades of emergency medicine. Every snake bite needs to be seen, Sessions said, and treated, usually for swelling and other secondary causes.
"A lot of snake bites are treated by antibiotics," he said.
The drill, if you need emergency medical care: call 911 for an ambulance or have someone drive you to the hospital, which is on Kingshighway (Old Business Loop 62), .2 miles off West Van Buren (Highway 62). The ER faces the street, on the west end of the hospital. Go in the door and turn right to the window in the waiting room, where a registered nurse certified in Advanced Trauma Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support will check you in and assess your condition. The emergency department has two rooms with four beds, and now, no waiting for the doctor.