Joe Wernick, CEO of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, shown in this file photo, told the hospital board Wednesday that uncertainty from the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act is having an adverse impact on the health care environment. (Albany Herald file photo)
ALBANY — Dr. Steven Wolinsky, a member of Phoebe Cardiology Associates and a physician specializing in cardiovascular disease and intervention cardiology, took the platform Wednesday to give to the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Board a formal presentation on the hospital’s new catheterization lab, as well as give an update on the cardiology department as a whole.
Meanwhile, additional attention was given to the impact recent fiscal circumstances have had on the health care industry.
The new cath lab, which became operational earlier this year, represents a $1.3 million investment. The new system, known as the Philips FD-20, has been said to be able to improve Phoebe’s ability to care for and manage complex cardiovascular disease using technology that can provide better images while utilizing less radiation and contrast.
The previous technology that had been used was about 15 years old, Wolinsky said.
“We used to have four or five small screens. Now we have one big screen that we can modify,” he said. “We used to go outside (the lab) to see old images. Now old and new images can be imported.
“We used to take separate images. Now we can swing around and get an image of the entire left coronary system with one image (and one dose of contrast).”
On an annual basis, there are 3,800 cardiac cath procedures done at Phoebe for the purpose of detecting and treating heart disease, Wolinsky said.
The cardiology department at Phoebe has roughly 70-80 people supporting it, the physician said. One new cardiologist joined the staff earlier this week, with another one expected to start in the next couple of weeks.
During his system report, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick took another opportunity to note how the fiscal environment has caused uncertainty in the health care industry — compounded by a number of factors such as Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
He noted examples of hospitals in the state that have recently closed including Charlton Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed non-profit located in Folkston that, according to the hospital’s website, suspended services on Friday.
“This is a byproduct of what is happening (with smaller hospitals) with deficiencies in collections on Medicaid,” Wernick said. ” … We are sailing into very uncharted waters with the Affordable Care Act. We will continue to see stress causing closure, but will also see stress that will cause them (hospitals) to consider what they will do in the future and what they have done in the past.
“Hospitals in that mode, especially smaller hospitals, (will have to make tough decisions).”
An example closer to the Albany area was Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Arlington, which closed its doors on Feb. 1. Since that time, hospital leadership in Miller County has stepped in to help fill the gap left from the closure.