Physicians, public fight to save Christus hospital residency program

Staff at Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, are airing their concerns about plans to close the hospital's emergency medicine residency program, ABC affiliate KIII reported Oct. 19.

Christus Spohn announced the decision earlier this month, saying the decision to phase out the residency program was made with "thorough consideration of our community's needs and our available resources to serve those needs."

Since then, residents of the Coastal Bend region have signed a petition asking the hospital to reverse its decision. The emergency medicine residency program "has not only trained exceptional physicians but also advanced healthcare within our community significantly," the petition reads. "The loss of this program would be a great blow to our city's health infrastructure." As of Oct. 20, the petition had more than 3,400 signatures.

Staff at the hospital have also raised concerns before the Corpus Christi City Council and the Nueces County commissioners, according to KIII, specifically regarding wait times.

"I will never forget the first day I worked there with no residents, there were 17 charts in the rack which means 17 patients that had been waiting all night to be seen, and the first five or six I saw were deathly ill," John Herrrick, DO, told county commissioners this week, according to the news station. "Low blood pressure, heart rates of 150, and there's no way they should have been waiting with those wait times. With the residents, we've solved that. …The metrics decreased greatly."

Hospital officials have said they are committed to maintaining the strength of emergency department staffing and other healthcare services in the region as it winds down the residency program. The emergency residency program launched in 2007 and was one of three in Texas at the time.

There are "18 now," Christus Spohn Health System CEO Dom Dominguez said, according to KIII. "Those resources are needed in other areas. We'll continue to resource every other department: the ER, radiology, anesthesia, pathology, and will continue to recruit into the community the specialties I mentioned and others."

Commissioners asked Mr. Dominguez Oct. 19 to form a committee with them and other members of the medical community, the news station reported. However, according to KIII, Mr. Dominguez raised concerns this week related to participating in the committee, including privacy issues and limiting who will be part of the committee.

As of the end of an Oct. 19 meeting, Mr. Dominguez had not given a definite answer regarding participation. 

Read the full KIII reports here and here.

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