To the Editor:
After Inova threatened to close Mount Vernon Hospital a decade ago — some say to enhance their leverage with local elected officials — much praise is now being lavished on this health care leviathan. As the Gazette’s Tim Peterson reported in “Staying Here … And Growing,” Inova is underway expanding Mount Vernon Hospital’s Emergency Department by 19,000 square feet and adding 25 new treatment rooms.
All well and fine except there is no mention of adding doctors! No recent news report, Inova press release or posted information on Inova’s public website — including their foundation — mentions a future increase in staff. If, in fact, increasing personnel is part of the plan, Mount Vernon residents would be pleased to know.
Anyone who has experienced ER care over the years at Mount Vernon Hospital — including my family — will attest to finding adequate space but few doctors and very long waits because of it.
Before any congratulatory ribbon-cutting is performed, let’s hope local leaders and Inova executives have focused on staffing and not just space. Inova is obsessed with growth and correspondingly, attention to the bottom line seems to be prescribed more often than patient care. Case in point; Inova has just created a centralized phone processing center for all 22 of its primary care physicians, including internal medicine and family practice doctors throughout Northern Virginia. This means you cannot directly contact your doctor’s office. Inova “Central Command” will patch you through — eventually — but not without intermediaries who determine the merits of your call.
Don’t believe it? Ask your local pharmacists here in Mount Vernon who are as frustrated with the poor communications as are the patients.
Inova’s growth may be good for Inova, their bottom line, and the local economy but just like Big Box stores, we will run the risk of not finding much help once we arrive if adding real estate takes precedence over adding real doctors. Expansion without a commensurate increase in physicians and service is no improvement because the truth is that ER patients wait not because there is no room, but because no doctor is to be found.
After the hoopla of the opening ceremony on the new ER is over and the local politicians are enjoying seeing their pictures in the papers handshaking Inova’s executives, let’s hope those of us who occasionally have to take that late night trip to Mount Vernon Hospital won’t be sitting in larger spaces while enduring the same endless waits for the same small staff of overworked doctors.