Point of View: Having hospitalists ‘means all good things’

A hospitalist is a dedicated physician who works exclusively in the hospital to provide inpatient care.

Starting in October, South Peninsula Hospital will be utilizing a hospitalist model of physician care for hospitalized patients. What does that mean? It means all good things, like no more losing your primary care doctor out of the clinic for a week to go work at the hospital. It means consistent communications and care practices for hospitalized patients. It means growing expertise in medical care in the clinic and the hospital. It means a regular physician team for hospital staff to work with. It means physicians at the clinic level with consistent schedules and greater availability. It means all good things for the community.

A hospitalist is a dedicated physician who works exclusively in the hospital to provide inpatient care. Three years ago, we launched a hybrid model of the hospitalist format, having designated physicians from Homer Medical Center work as hospitalists on a weekly basis. Though a successful first step, it has been a continuing desire of the hospital’s medical staff to have a more consistent, permanent team for inpatient care. Over the past two years, we have seen the need to care for increasingly complex medical patients locally, particularly when the option to send these patients north to larger and more specialized hospitals was not available.

COVID-19 illness, an aging population, offering more advanced procedures and surgeries, reduced healthcare capacity statewide and more residents living here year round are but some of the reasons to advance the level of care we provide here. Additionally, Homer Medical Clinic was in need of a more immediate and consistent schedule of providers to offer patients, especially for those scheduling recurring appointments for management of complex health issues. We hope this move to expand services and develop expertise in inpatient-based services will better serve our community.

With this decision comes new opportunities and roles for our medical staff. Specifically Dr. Christy Martinez and Dr. Sarah Roberts have been selected as the new hospitalists and will begin these roles exclusively in October. Both physicians have been providing care for families at Homer Medical Center for a combined 16 years. They have been part of the rotating hospitalists for its existence, and Dr. Martinez is the Acute Care Medical Director. Though sorely missed at the clinic, their experience, expertise and personal knowledge of the residents in the community will be a welcome contribution in their designated roles. A third hospitalist, Dr. Kira Bendixen, will join the team in November. Together, the group of hospitalists aim to focus their professional practice solely on hospital-based medicine and expand the current level of care available to the community within our hospital.

With the departure of Dr. Martinez and Dr. Roberts from Homer Medical Center, the team there is expanding with the hiring of a new providers. We’ve recently welcomed Joe Llenos, M.D., and Bonnie Turner, N.P, and will soon welcome Emma Mayfield, D.O., all full-time family medicine providers. In addition to adding new providers, you will see increased appointment availability and capacity of the other physicians who no longer have hospitalist rotation, which we expect will quickly reduce lead times for appointments. Additionally, the SPH Family Care Clinic has three family practice providers and capacity for new patients, and they are located conveniently across the street.

I want to thank doctors Giulia Tortora, Matthew Swain, Christy Tuomi, Ross Dodge, Jessica Malone and Tyler Moffett for their time, commitment and patient care over the last few years as part of our hospitalist program. Doctors Dodge and Malone will continue on the hospitalist team on a part time, fill-in basis; their expertise in hospital medicine has been an invaluable resource in growing the hospitalist care. I thank the patients of Homer Medical Center for your patience and understanding as we transition to this new model and invite you to join me in welcoming the new HMC providers to our community and your healthcare team. I thank the SPH Medical Staff for your vision and taking this action in response to the community’s needs. And I thank doctors Sarah Roberts, Christy Martinez and Kira Bendixen for your willingness to assume these new roles.

Having designated hospitalists, backed by a strong team of providers at Homer Medical Center and the Family Care Clinic, working in conjunction with the general surgeons and the numerous specialists we are fortunate to have, is all part of meeting our mission to promote community health and wellness by providing personalized, high quality, locally coordinated healthcare.

Ryan Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of South Peninsula Hospital

Ryan Smith, South Peninsula Hospital Chief Executive Officer. (Photo courtesy of South Peninsula Hospital)

Ryan Smith, South Peninsula Hospital Chief Executive Officer. (Photo courtesy of South Peninsula Hospital)