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New Emergency Room team cutting wait times at Indian River Medical Center

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of Decber 5, 2013)

A new team of doctors took over the Emergency Room at Indian River Medical Center on the stroke of midnight last Sunday, and early returns suggested patients were being seen more quickly than in the recent past.

In response to complaints of wait-times averaging almost six hours, the hospital terminated a group of physicians that had been running the Emergency Room, and brought in a new team of 12 to 14 doctors managed by the Apollo group from Atlanta.

By last Sunday afternoon, with the new team in place, things indeed seemed to be running more smoothly and efficiently. At 1:30 p.m., five patients who had arrived between 12:15 and 12:30 had already been escorted to beds in the ER.

Said one 54-year-old woman, as she was wheeled off to x-ray: “I can’t believe it. This is the fastest it has ever gone here.” 

Hospital CEO Jeff Susi, who has taken much of the heat for recent operational problems at the medical center, arrived at the hospital just before midnight Saturday night.

He said he had come “to welcome the Apollo MD group and to thank the outgoing physicians for the high quality care they provided to our patients and the community.”

In an effort to dramatically shorten wait-times, Susi had terminated the hospital’s five-year contract with Emergency Physicians of Central Florida – which was being paid a yearly management fee of $890,000 above the doctors’ compensation.

The new Atlanta group is not charging a management fee, Susi said. Their pay will be based on performance, which hospital senior leadership hopes will vastly improve ER efficiency, care and patient satisfaction.

While the switch in doctors went smoothly, prior to 9:30 last Saturday things had been sluggish.

A woman who arrived in the waiting room at 9:00 was not escorted to an ER bed until 10:30. Another young man with severe abdominal pain, brought to the ER by his parents at 2 p.m. Saturday, was not seen by a doctor for four hours and not admitted to a hospital room for 9 hours from the time of arrival. 

But between 10:45 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. on Saturday night just before Susi’s arrival, five patients who arrived by car received ID bracelets and were escorted to beds in the ER within 30 minutes.

By 11:30 two of them walked out with medication, having been examined by doctors from the about-to-be ousted Central Florida physicians group.

Several doctors affiliated with IRMC told Vero Beach 32963 that they thought the former ER doctors had been unfairly blamed for problems beyond their control.

They said a faulty computer tracking system and layoffs had made it difficult for ER doctors to get x-rays and lab results quickly, then place patients in staffed rooms on a hospital floor.

One of the better-known departing emergency room physicians, Dudley Teel, will begin working in the ER at Sebastian River Medical Center at the end of this week.

Sebastian’s chief operating officer Kelly Enriquez said the hospital was delighted to get him: “His leadership and nearly 30 years of patient care in the ER will be greatly welcomed in our community,” she said.

The new physicians group at IRMC, Apollo, is being temporarily managed by Dr. Roderick Bennett who oversees ER care at hospitals in four states. Bennett is working at Indian River Medical Center full-time until a new ER director is hired.

 “We plan to establish a core group of physicians to live within the community and become truly vested to the hospital,” he said.