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Hospital telemetry topic of area Rotary program

During a recent Zoom meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville, Karen Surkala, Allegheny Health Network/Westfield Memorial Hospital president and member of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville, presented a program titled “Telehealth, Mercy Virtual and Telemetry.”

Her program was sponsored by Rotarian Tom Berkhouse.

Surkala has been in the role of AHN/Westfield Memorial Hospital president for three years, and she previously served in the same role from 2007 to 2011. She holds a bachelor of science degree from Gannon University and a Masters in Business Administration from St. Leo University in Tampa, Fla. Surkala held many positions at St. Vincent Hospital in Erie. Between her two stints at Westfield Memorial Hospital, she was senior director of strategic agenda management at Cleveland Clinic. While at AHN/Westfield Memorial Hospital, she has been instrumental in bringing new critically needed services to this marketing area.

“We were working on some new services before the pandemic hit,” Surkala said. “We wanted to continue to keep services at Westfield Memorial Hospital and to admit local patients of this region. In 2019 we started to plan for our telehealth program, which is remote patient monitoring, and in Aug. of 2020 this program started with endocrinology. This is a great program, especially for our senior population, as folks don’t have to travel to Erie, Buffalo or Pittsburgh for their care. We have launched our telehealth dermatology program. This service provider sees patients in Westfield, while working from home or the office. Our pulmonary surgery program is designed to see more in-patients here at Westfield Memorial Hospital.”

She referenced the strong campaign of 2007 to 2009 to keep Westfield Memorial Hospital open, when New York state officials wanted to close it. The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville, which helped found Westfield Memorial Hospital in 1941, was a strong supporter for keeping the hospital open.

“It’s a state mandate for a hospital to have a certain number of patients,” Surkala said. “When I came here, the emergency room staff and I realized that we really needed an early warning system to monitor patients as they moved about their room or the hospital. By accessing AHN capital resources and funding, Westfield Memorial Hospital was able to establish and quickly implement the nuclear stress testing program. We’re trying to improve access to resources and providers. We are able to keep patients here who are in diabetic crisis, as well as low risk cardiac patients with chest pain, and those with gastrointestinal issues. During the pandemic, we have been able to manage high acuity care to patients here, rather than moving them to St. Vincent Hospital in Erie. Westfield Memorial Hospital was licensed to maintain four hospital beds. New York state required hospitals to expand the number of their beds during the pandemic. We now have 10 licensed beds, and we hope to keep them moving forward.”

Surkala then discussed the Westfield Memorial Hospital Mercy Virtual Program.

“We were able to receive over $300,000 from a federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HERSA) to extend our services and have four Mercy Virtual programs licensed here at Westfield Memorial Hospital,” Surkala said. “We can monitor capable patients through telemetry.”

Mercy Virtual is a subsidiary of the St. Louis-based health system Mercy. It is bringing telehealth solutions to hospitals around the country. Through state-of-the-art telecommunication and remote patient monitoring technology in each ICU room, Mercy’s Virtual Care Center board-certified intensivists interact and collaborate with AHN/Westfield Memorial Hospital clinical staff. This provides an extra layer of ICU patient care and support.

Telemetry is a monitoring service. Data is recorded and transmitted from remote sources to an information technology system in a different site. Sensors at the remote source measure physical or electrical data, which is transmitted over a wireless and/or wired medium. Data is displayed and analyzed at the remote site.

“Through telemetry, some Westfield Memorial Hospital patients have monitors that are connected to specialized physicians in Pittsburgh,” Surkala said. “When the monitors sense changes in a patient’s respiration, blood pressure, or cardiac state, a ‘doorbell’ in the patient’s room alerts hospital staff. One benefit of the use of telemetry is that patients can remain close to home for a continuity of care and also so that their family members are able to visit with them.”

Surkala briefly noted three other updates on Westfield Memorial Hospital services. The first is the urology program, which will start in May. A physician from Erie will be at Westfield Memorial Hospital on three Fridays of each month. The second service is the return of the ophthalmology program, with its new clinic expected to be open in July. Lastly, Surkala encouraged individuals who are eligible to come to Westfield Memorial Hospital to receive at no charge the COVID-19 vaccine. She said, “Here at WMH we are currently administering the Moderna vaccine to those of the ages 18 and above. We are not requiring online registration, and we are taking registrations over the phone.”

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