TGH losing some would-be patients

August 07, 2002 11:00 pm

By ERIC BURKETT

Patients who have suffered traumatic injuries and would normally be treated at Tuolumne General Hospital are being diverted to Sonora Community Hospital through August.

But TGH officials are quick to point out that emergency services at the county-owned TGH have not been closed down.

"We've created this temporary policy to last through the month," said Dan Burch, Tuolumne County's emergency medical services coordinator.

On Aug. 1, members of the Tuolumne County Emergency Medical Care Commission met to discuss how to deal with a shortage of on-call surgeons at Tuolumne General Hospital. The county hospital's primary on-call surgeon, Gideon Naude, is on sabbatical in South Africa this month, and has announced he wants to concentrate on his own practice when he returns. Other already-busy surgeons in the county have been reluctant to pick up Naude's workload.

That has left TGH without the ability to handle trauma or emergency-type surgeries, although regularly scheduled surgeries are unaffected, said Barry Woerman, TGH administrative officer.

The numbers of patients affected by the move is very small, he said.

Only about 1 percent, or 40 ambulance patients out of 4,000 in Tuolumne County, even underwent surgery last year, said Burch.

Other groups of trauma patients — such as vascular, pediatric, and patients with spine and head injuries — are traditionally sent to hospitals in the Central Valley, anyway.

Both Craig Wilcox, a spokesman for Sonora Community Hospital, and Scott Klatt, an SCH emergency room physician, say they've seen the numbers of ambulances rise at the hospital.

SCH has been prepared for this event, said Klatt, and has added two extra rooms to its emergency ward, as well as extra nurses and staffing. SCH will continue like this as long as needed, Klatt said.

TGH knew this was happening but didn't prepare for it, he added.

Woerman disputes that assessment