BOONEVILLE - Care is improving for patients across several small Arkansas communities, and there's a dedicated doctor who is making it happen.
Dr. Syed Hamid planned to work in Booneville for a few years at the beginning of his career and then move on, probably to an urban area. But Dr. Hamid found he loved practicing medicine in a rural setting and has spent most of the last dozen years as an emergency room physician and hospitalist in the little town wedged between the Ozark and Ouachita mountains.
Recently, Mercy expanded Dr. Hamid's practice to Paris and Waldron, two rural communities where it operates critical access hospitals, each about a half-hour's drive from Mercy Hospital Booneville. The pilot project sought to test how an admitting physician who would do rounds as a hospitalist would affect care in the two communities. The results have been positive, both for patients and Mercy.
Because there might not be an admitting physician available, patients taken to the Waldron or Paris hospitals often were transferred to Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. Knowing this, EMS personnel sometimes would skip the rural hospital and take the patient straight to Fort Smith. This increased patient transfer time and, at times, would stress Mercy Hospital Fort Smith's already busy emergency department.
Patients generally want to stay closer to home if they're not in a life-threatening situation, Dr. Hamid said. Even if they do require hospitalization in Fort Smith, often they can be transferred to continue recovery at a critical access hospital nearer their home, he said. Having a hospitalist doing rounds at all three rural hospitals makes it possible for Mercy to offer a higher level of care.
The pilot project increased inpatient stays at Booneville, Paris and Waldron and made all three hospitals better able to handle acute cases, Dr. Hamid said.
The pilot also helped relieve some pressure from Mercy Hospital Fort Smith's emergency department.
Dr. Hamid works each day at each of the critical access hospitals, starting wherever he has a patient with the highest level of need, said Teresa Williams, regional administrator for Mercy's critical access hospitals. Mercy's comprehensive electronic medical records make it possible for him to view charts remotely and decide where he's needed first, she said.
Dr. Hamid's travel time will begin to lessen with the addition of nurse practitioners and telemedicine to the program.
Dr. Hamid earned his M.D. from Dow Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan. He completed one year of residency in pathology at Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University followed by residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine N.Y. He was the chief medical resident.