News Release

Norton County Hospital provides status report

September 11, 2018

NORTON, Kan. – Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic would like to update patients about current health care services, providers and continued recruitment efforts. Currently on the medical staff include Glenda Maurer, MD; Kristin Vogel, PA-C; and Jonna Inman, APRN. Hoa-Dung Nguyen, DO, will be leaving after Nov. 16, 2018, and Taylor Bieberle, PA-C, will be leaving after Oct. 28, 2018. Visiting physicians are filling in to assist in the Emergency department and clinic, as needed, on temporary assignment until physicians are recruited for more sustainable roles. The hospital continues to release news on those physicians to local media and places the latest information on the "Latest News" page of its website.

The hospital offers such services as cardiac rehabilitation, chemotherapy, chronic care management, emergency services, radiology, lab, respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and surgeries by some visiting specialists that include orthopedics, podiatry, and women’s health (OBGYN). While labor and delivery services are temporarily on hold, the hospital and clinic continue to provide an array of maternal and infant care, including prenatal classes, prenatal lab, ultrasound, lactation consulting, postpartum care, car seat installation and checks, newborn hearing screenings and circumcision. The hospital recently had a staff member undergo SHICK (Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas) training to help seniors sign up for Medicare. This person also helps patients with other insurance questions and families get the information they need about other important documentation, including advance directives.

In addition to the Norton Medical Clinic providing family practice services to patients of all ages, the Outpatient and Specialty Clinic is also available to help patients keep their care close to home. Current specialties available in Norton include cardiology, dermatology, nephrology, neurosurgery, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, podiatry, pulmonology and urology. Other specialties and opportunities for more surgeries to remain local are constantly examined and pursued as needed and if feasible for all parties involved. The hospital recently started offering regular, low-cost cardiovascular screenings by appointment, and weekly it has a mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit available as well as provides nuclear stress tests. It also continues to offer specific services such as in-house computed tomography (CT) scans and digital mammography.

Recruitment continues

The hospital’s CEO, Gina Frack, recently developed an overview of current physician recruitment efforts. Recruitment, she said, is being done in many ways and is addressing two main areas of need. One aspect is to provide additional providers to prevent burnout of existing providers. The other aspect is planting the seed of a working relationship that may mean one of these doctors temporarily helping out could lead him or her to eventually choose to come back and work for Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic. Even if the visiting doctors don’t return themselves, they will potentially share their positive experience living and working in Norton with their peers and in a sense, they then help recruit as well.

Norton County Hospital is getting other external assistance with recruitment. The hospital entered into a contract with Delta Physician Placement in March 2018. This company provides a nationwide platform for doctor recruitment, and the hospital has already received information on a couple of promising rural doctors; no solid commitments have been made yet.

Until providers are recruited for the longer term, the hospital and clinic are using a “locum tenens,” which is a provider (doctor or mid-level provider) who helps cover care when a facility is short staffed. Several locum providers are lined up to work in Norton for weeks or months at a time. The KU School of Medicine has a locum program where third-year residents can provide this type of coverage, as an example. Some of these third-year residents have not yet secured their first place to work so they not only could provide additional help, but they could also decide to join their place of work permanently should their work experience and reception from the community be positive.

Another recruitment opportunity is attending health care fairs. Frack said she has already signed up for physician job fairs in Kansas City and Wichita in fall 2018 to recruit physicians leaving their training and looking for their first place to work. She also plans to attend a rural recruitment event at Kearny County Hospital in southwest Kansas this fall; these prior recruitment events have led to successful placement of physicians in other critical access hospitals (CAHs) in southwest Kansas.

Norton County Hospital has signed on as a participating CAH for the International Family Practice Fellowship through Via Christi Hospital. This fellowship provides doctors with extra training needed to prepare them as missionary doctors who travel the world to serve others in faith and health. The hospital benefits, because these fellows need 400 hours worked at a CAH to complete their fellowship requirements. It is the rural environment that best prepares these doctors for the challenges they will face in the locations they will find themselves practicing medicine. A former fellow, Dr. SunMin Kim, as well as a current fellow, Dr. Brian Jennings, have worked at Norton County Hospital through this program.

Gaining a relationship with Via Christi and its fellowship program means Norton County Hospital has found many doctors who are a part of a larger missionary doctor social network. Some are doctors working as husband and wife teams. While they are stateside, they are often looking for work, which could be of benefit to Norton patients.

Frack said the hospital and clinic cannot successfully recruit new doctors alone. Each doctor coming to help may want to come back in a more permanent role someday. Or, these doctors may pass along to a colleague that Norton was a great place to work and community in which to live. Recruitment is a community activity, and recruitment must involve the doctor’s entire family. The hospitality community members give these families can be the difference between making them feel like they are just here for a temporary job or that they are being brought into an appreciative community that makes Norton feel like home.

Norton County Hospital and Norton Medical Clinic thanks patients for their understanding during this transition period. Continued updates will be released publicly and can be found on the hospital’s website.