Coulee Medical Center staff pulled together a recruitment booth for a medical conference in Spokane last month where Dr. Andrew Castrodale was a featured speaker.
Chief Executive Officer Debbie Bigelow told hospital commissioners Monday night that staff members displayed beautiful photographs of the area and the hospital and wrote articles about “what a great place this is to live and work.”
Recruiting physicians to rural areas is not easy, but CMC’s previous CEO was content to use traditional recruitment firms for the task.
Castrodale has pursued other methods, including steeping the facility in University of Washington programs for introducing students to rural medicine.
One student just finished up a stint at CMC, Castrodale said. Two other third-year students will take six weeks each to train at CMC as family medicine interns this summer and fall.
Castrodale views the program as “a long range recruitment tool.”
He said a lot of doctors doing residencies are interested in rural medicine, and a couple are interested in starting their third year here.
Castrodale suggested forming a recruitment committee among staff and commission members to get a process in place for showcasing CMC to potential recruits.
A market study and business plan done in preparation for the new facility called for hiring two more physicians. And after internal turmoil related to the former CEO influenced two “mid-level” health care providers to leave in recent months, the hospital is feeling even more need.
“We’re behind the eight ball, and we need to recruit,” Castrodale said.
Commissioner Jerry Kennedy had noted acute inpatient days were lower by about a third in the first quarter of 2014. Castrodale said that was due in part to having fewer providers on staff. Wendy Hughes had been working two days a week in Grand Coulee but no longer is. Dawn Lovelace, a registered nurse practitioner, is cutting back to once a week.
“When she’s gone, that’s a big hit,” Castrodale said. “When providers leave their job, they take their job with them,” he added, meaning that patients often follow the provider, not the facility.
CMC lost $311,000 in March, having budgeted for a gain of $5,000.