Column: 41 years at Queen’s give perspective on doctor-care changes
I have been practicing internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and critical care medicine at The Queen’s Medical Center for 41 years.
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I have been practicing internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and critical care medicine at The Queen’s Medical Center for 41 years. I was educated in New York City, medically trained in Los Angeles, and after being drafted into the Army, was fortunate enough to be assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center. I met my wife (a Kailua High School graduate) then, and stayed in Hawaii. I opened a private practice and worked at both Queen’s Medical Center and St. Francis Medical Center, starting in 1978.
In the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, all patients who were admitted to Queen’s were seen and followed by their private physicians or specialists. The admitting physician was responsible for the patient, day and night.
From the late 1990s until now, it became increasingly difficult to continue practicing in that system. Due to increased requirements of insurance companies, electronic medical records, compliance issues, escalating complexity of diseases, newer and more sophisticated drugs as well as difficulty in admitting and discharging patients, private doctors could no longer efficiently practice both in-patient and out-patient medicine. So the rapid birth of hospital-employed physicians began.
Queen’s was a leader in this new wave of caring for hospitalized patients; it now employs over 200 physicians. During the transition of medical care of such magnitude, Queen’s has made a great effort to hire the best possible physicians, all with board certifications in their specialty.
I have been part of this transition. My four partners and I had been in private practice for many years, but five years ago it became obvious we could no longer deal with the many insurance companies (146 in 2013), government requirements, and electronic medical records not connected to the Queen’s system, so ultimately we decided to join Queen’s as employees.
We have had excellent rapport with the hospital administration and, although, during the first year there was a steep learning curve, we were able to work with the administration and ironed out most of the problems.
More specifically, Dr. Whitney Limm spearheaded the transition and Art Ushijima, Queen’s CEO, oversaw this transition. I have always found both to be gracious and willing to listen and to mediate acceptable solutions to our problems, not always to our full satisfaction, but mediations never are.
There are other groups at Queen’s that are not yet fully staffed because of the difficulties of recruiting to Hawaii due to the cost of living and the inconvenience of living so far away from family. We have lost some excellent physicians over the years, some even for reasons of discontent with Queen’s. However, the majority that leave do so because of family reasons, wanting to return to the mainland, or to seek further education.
Queen’s has a robust recruiting program — but to find the best fits and the best physicians to bring here and stay is difficult and time-consuming.
Working at Queen’s for 41 years has been a true honor. I have worked with some of the finest physicians, nurses, aides, secretaries and administrators. These are all good, caring people who want the best for the patients.
Queen’s is assisting and financing the development of a physician-employed group to better be able to communicate with the administration in regard to the physicians’ needs so that we can improve physician recruitment and retention. I am currently a member of the executive committee of this Queen’s Medical Group.
I myself was a patient at Queen’s three months ago. I cannot imagine better care anywhere else, than what I experienced during my stay there. Queen’s is growing and experiencing some growing pains, but in my opinion is still the premier hospital in the Pacific. It has always adhered to its mission, “to provide in perpetuity quality health care services to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawaii.”
George L. Druger, M.D., is a physician employed at The Queen’s Medical Center.