2004-07-23 / Community

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Sets New ED Physician Staffing Plan

In a “significant move” to upgrade emergency medicine services, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has inked an agreement with Rockaway Physicians, PLLC, to assume management and physician staffing of the Emergency Department (ED) effective July 1, 2004. While Rockaway Physicians, an emergency medicine physician management and employment firm, will take over day-to-day operations of the department, the Hospital will retain ultimate responsibility for the ED.

“Through our partnership with Rockaway Physicians, we are planning to implement a modernization and quality improvement of our emergency medical services,” said Luis A. Hernandez, Chief Executive Officer. “Our patients and community expect and deserve the very best care available and we are taking steps to ensure that they receive it,” he added.

The first action taken by the firm and the Hospital has been to name Samuel I. Okonta, MD, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine. Board certified in emergency medicine and internal medicine, Dr. Okonta has served as Director of Emergency Services at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, NY, where 30,000 ED visits were seen a year. He has also worked in both teaching and non-teaching hospitals. Dr. Okonta completed an internal medicine residency at College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University at Harlem Hospital Center in 1988 and a residency in emergency medicine at New York Medical College at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in 1996.

As a part of the emergency medicine initiative, four board-certified emergency medicine physicians have joined the departmental staff. Two board-eligible emergency medicine specialists round out the roster.

“The addition of these fine physicians who are board-certified and board-eligible to our staff is a very important step to establishing the overall quality of emergency medical care of our program,” said Dr. Okonta.

Dr. Okonta articulated a number of new initiatives that are already underway in the Emergency Department.

“My primary goal is to improve patient, family and physician satisfaction,” he said. “We intend to cut the length of stay, or the amount of time people spend in the ED, from the minute they walk in the door until they receive their discharge by the doctor,” he added.

One of the ways proposed to reduce the length of stay in the ED is the creation of a physician triage that will augment the existing nurse triage system during peak hours. “A physician will accompany the nurse as the patient is being interviewed,” Dr. Okonta said. “The physician will be able to treat certain cases immediately so that the patient can be discharged right away and in other cases, start the diagnostic work-up and treatment as needed without any delay.”

The key to raising customer satisfaction will include the implementation of a patient call-back system. With a call back to patients after they have been discharged, it will be possible to monitor the patient’s progress and obtain feedback on the care they received. “We would like to continue interaction with our patients and find out if the care they received was satisfactory enough to consider recommending/referring family and friends to the ED,” Dr. Okonta said.

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