Sampson Regional Medical Center’s Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center will close it doors Friday after four and a half years, with hospital officials citing a declining number of patients eligible for technology provided by the facility.
A letter was sent to patients on Feb. 23 and to referring providers on March 7 notifying them of the impending closure. Housed within the hospital, the center has been a provider of advanced wound care and hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy since November 2013.
The service provided by the Wound Care Center has been managed through a contract with Healogics, a wound management company also known as Diversified or Integrated Wound Specialists. Healogics and Sampson Regional mutually agreed to terminate the management agreement, effective March 30.
”We’ve had the honor to care for you and hope you’ve found great healing in the care we’ve delivered,” the letter to patients stated. It was signed by SRMC and Integrated Wound Specialists. “Regretfully, we inform you that effective March 30, 2018, our Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center will close.”
Under Dr. John McPhail, the center’s medical director, the facility has treated many with chronic wounds, including venous, pressure, diabetic and trauma wounds, often utilizing hyperbaric oxygen chambers that utilize pure oxygen and elevated pressure to exponentially increase the body’s oxygenation levels toward speeding up the healing process.
Without care, patients can experience infection, amputation or require other more invasive treatments.
McPhail and Temple Byrd, NP, have been working closely with patients in recent weeks to heal wounds and transition patients back to primary care physicians or referring providers, with whom the center’s staff has communicated to “ensure a seamless transition.”
Amber Cava, vice president of Strategy & Business Development for SRMC, said the announcement was made to patients with more than 30 days’ notice to make sure those successful care transitions happen.
”Since that time, Sampson Regional has worked diligently with Healogics to refer its wound care patients back to their primary care provider so their care can be directed appropriately,’ Cava stated. “Sampson Regional also worked with Healogics to make employment opportunities available to the staff affected by the center’s closure. Sampson Regional recognizes the value of wound care services and the necessity of many patients to have access to such care locally.”
Prior to the center’s opening, wound care was provided through the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center and general surgeons. One of the primary reasons Sampson Regional opened the center at the end of 2013 was to expand services to include HBO. However, Medicare changes have meant a dip in customers who are able to access that, hospital officials said.
“Changes in Medicare guidelines over the past couple of years have narrowed the criterion for what meets medical necessity for HBO therapy,” Cava stated. “As a result, the center experienced a sharp and steady decline of eligible patients, affecting the center’s core business. No patients have required or qualified for HBO therapy in the 8-10 months preceding decision to close.”
Stephanie McIntosh and her mother are among those affected by the move. McIntosh said her mother, a diabetic patient, has been treated at the center since June. She previously had to have toes amputated due to an allergic reaction to a topical ointment, but was treated by the wound care facility’s staff and has since completely healed.
McIntosh talked glowingly about the facility and its staff, notably McPhail, but said she and her mother would be struggling to find another center — and won’t have long to do it. Since receiving notice the center was closing, McIntosh has looked around at other facilities. It will take traveling, and McIntosh said she doesn’t believe they will compare to what they had here.
“This is traumatic for us,” said McIntosh. “They have an excellent team out there, an award-winning team. I have looked at some other counties and not heard the best things. It is concerning.”
Cava said the hospital is committed to preserving access to wound care treatments through its Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, noting a staff of therapists who have specialized training and years of collective experience in the treatment of wounds.
The Rehab Center will return to offering services provided prior to the hospital’s partnership with Healogics, including selective sharp debridement of devitalized tissue, application of wound VAC (vacuum-assisted closure) and dressing changes. That will be under the purview of Outpatient Rehab Services director Dusty Glover.
For wounds that do not demonstrate progressive healing through specialized wound therapies and are thought to require surgical intervention, primary care providers may refer to the hospital’s general surgeons: Dr. Andres Fleury, Dr. Mariana Mendible and Dr. Michael Valenti.
All past and active patients of the Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center can obtain a copy of their medical record at SRMC’s Medical Records Department, located on the first floor of the hospital. All wound records may be retrieved free of charge through June 30. Patients must present an ID card at time of record request. Hospital officials said the Wound Care Center will ensure a copy of patients’ medical record is made available to their primary care doctor or referring physician at the time of the center’s closure.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.