Webb officials, community members discuss local physician staff needs

The Town of Webb Property Owners Association (WPOA) reported at its annual meeting in July that its role in local health care issues has waned now that St. Elizabeth’s has been successfully courted and is in operation of the health center.

But in recent weeks WPOA has fielded several complaints from community members, according to board member Bob McCoy.

The absence of a second doctor at the health care center is becoming a cause of frustration, he said.

When a doctor is not on hand at the office, as sometimes happens, the other health staff is limited in what they can administer in his absence, according to McCoy.

He said patients are being told that prescription renewals, things of that nature, must be put on hold.

That’s in addition to limits on the number of patients able to be seen, he said.

One doctor is simply not sufficient to cover the needs of the Town of Webb, particularly in the summer, according to McCoy.

Town of Webb Supervisor Ted Riehle revisited the town’s contract with St. Elizabeth’s, to clarify the arrangement that’s in place.

“We lease the facility to St. E’s,” he said. “Regarding use, St. Elizabeth’s shall use the leased premises for medical offices for health care providers and staff to provide full medical services including radiology and laboratory services to all patients.”

There are no staffing provisions, according to Riehle.

“St. E’s would not agree to specific conditions mandating staff. They couldn’t. We were in a position where we were struggling for one doctor. We were lucky enough to get Dr. Socash back,” he said.

Still, a second doctor is needed in Old Forge and St. Elizabeth’s has been working to put one in place, according to Riehle.

“In the past couple months, they have conducted a number of interviews. I believe they are making a good faith effort,” he said.

But getting doctors is a real challenge, Riehle said.

Some of the doctors that were interested came up to visit the Town of Webb, but have yet to make a commitment.

“This area isn’t for everybody,” Riehle said.

And unfortunately there’s a doctor shortage right now, he added.

Regardless, improvement is needed and WPOA has become reinvigorated in its advocacy role for the community, according to Bob McCoy.

He said WPOA will not be just a squeaky wheel, but will work toward a solution.

“One of our directors, Dr. Ronald Miller, will be contacting [St. Elizabeth’s]… to clarify the hardships that are occurring, and if possible to strengthen their resolve to get another physician up here,” McCoy said.

Dr. Miller also has ideas that might help with the recruitment effort, he said.

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