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40 years of Emergency Care; Emergency Services PA Treats More than 70,000 Emergencies a Year at Wesley Medical Center

WICHITA, Kan. -- When Emergency Services PA was founded in 1967, a handful of doctors was trying to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population of patients seeking emergency medical care at Wesley Medical Center.

By 1969, roughly 26,000 patients annually received unscheduled and immediate care at Wesley.

Today, Emergency Services treats more than 70,000 emergencies a year at Wesley and is celebrating its 40th anniversary -- and four decades of a continuous contract with the hospital.

In 1967, all the hospital emergency departments were staffed basically by interns, said administrator Nancy Martin. She started working for the group in the 1970s as a part-time accounting clerk and is now one of three corporate partners.

There were a number of community physicians who thought that was inadequate, she said. They kind of voluntarily came together and started working part time at Wesley. They felt they were providing a higher level of care.

Wesley Medical Center executives said they have relied on Emergency Services to cover its central emergency department -- and now out west -- for so long because the group has consistently delivered high-quality care.

They have developed and matured over a 40-year time period, and we function very closely together, said Wesley chief operating officer Sam Serrill. Continuity is really important.

The concept of emergency medicine as a specialty is relatively new.

The first university emergency medicine residency program was not established until 1970. Emergency medicine wasn t recognized as a specialty until the mid- 70s, according to the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

In 1973, Emergency Services hired its first full-time emergency physician, essentially launching the concept of emergency medicine as a specialty in Wichita, Martin said.

Today, the group employs 18 full-time physicians on a staff of 44, which includes physician assistants and registered nurses.

The group is doing something right in a field known for its high stress and turnover rates. Emergency Services has maintained a relationship with Wesley for 40 years and at least three of its doctors have been with the group more than 20 years.

Our group is really unique, said physician Randy Davidson, who has worked there since 1981. If you look at other groups in town, they ve changed hands so many times, turned over so much. The reason we haven t is because we want to make it enjoyable... and reduce stress as much as possible.

For example, Davidson said, the group has implemented a sabbatical program where every five years, a physician gets eight weeks off with pay.

The group does its own billing for patients. In emergency medicine, where a large percentage of patients are uninsured, that does not translate into huge profits.

But Davidson said the payoff is that physicians get to direct their own practice -- the hours they work, the shifts they take, and how long they will allow one another to work so they don t burn out.

If you re a doctor and just looking to make money, you won t be happy here, Davidson said. And honestly, they usually bypass us.

We all make excellent income ... but we stretch ours out for the long haul. We really try to promote growth in our group both outside the profession and inside.

Reach Andi Atwater at 316-268-6642 or aatwater@wichitaeagle.com

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