Editorial: BFMC taking action to lure family docs

  • The co-owners of Connecticut River Internists plan to retire at years end. The practice will remain open after it is acquired by Baystate Franklin Medical Center. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 8/24/2019 2:05:24 AM
Modified: 8/24/2019 2:05:10 AM

There’s a lot of hand-wringing done across the country, particularly in rural areas, over the shortage of family care physicians. Family care, also known as primary care, doctors are among the most sought-after in the health care community. They are your first line of defense in lifelong health care. Because they see you at least annually, they get to know your health history better than anyone. They (or their nurse practitioner) can always provide a referral, should you need one, but they can sometimes address your health issues themselves. This could eliminate the need for some appointments and also save you money.

Unfortunately, primary care physicians are scarce around Franklin County and getting scarcer. In August, for example, all four primary care doctors at Connecticut River Internists in Turners Falls are retiring at the end of the year. Doctors Adam Blacksin, Joseph Viadero, Laurence Klein and Wayne Gavryck go back a long way with their their patients and they will be sorely missed. (A fifth member of the popular practice, Dr. Bruce Van Boeckel, died in 2009.) For patients, losing a whole practice like that is like being cast adrift. As Viadero said, “The worst scenario would have been that we retired and our patients were left on their own to try to find primary care physicians.”

Happily, Baystate Franklin Medical Center is taking steps to fill the breach, now and in the future.

In the near term, BFMC has agreed to acquire Connecticut River Internists with its 8,000 patients as of Jan. 1. Baystate primary care doctor Catherine Dodds said the hospital will retain the group’s remaining staff and transfer two physicians and three nurse practitioners from the Greenfield hospital. This action also reflects the growing role of nurse practitioners in primary care. Working directly with patients, NPs, who train for two to four years beyond the four-year BSN degree, can diagnose and manage most common and many chronic illnesses. They are authorized to perform physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, provide counseling and education, and write prescriptions. The remaining staff will continue to fulfill the onerous role of administration, such as dealing with health insurance companies.

For the long term, Baystate Franklin Medical Center has announced plans to open a facility to train more family medicine doctors. The new residential program, where five doctors will train 12, is set to open in 2022, according to Chief Medical Officer Kinan Hreib, and it is likely Baystate Franklin will need to construct a new building near the hospital to accommodate the program. Hreib said he hopes that by training doctors in Greenfield, they will be more likely to come to Baystate Franklin to work.

We think this is a shrewd move: Who could come to know beautiful Franklin County and the North Quabbin area and not want to put down roots here and raise a family? We’ve got natural resources, recreation businesses, schools and colleges, an expanding schedule of trains — in short, Camelot on the Connecticut.

Viadero said, “I think that Baystate has made a tremendous commitment” in buying Connecticut River Internists. It seems to be part of a game plan that will benefit Franklin County into future decades. At a time when many hospitals are closing, BFMC is taking action to make sure that doesn’t happen around here.


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