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National firm to staff ER doctors at W-B General

Hospital says patients will not notice any changes when TEAMHealth takes over next year.

Starting in January, emergency room doctors at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will no longer be staffed by Sapphire Emergency Services of Plains Township.

Times Leader Staff Photo/S. John Wilkin

WILKES-BARRE – The partnership of local doctors providing emergency services at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will be replaced by a national company on the first of the year.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based TEAMHealth will take over for Sapphire Emergency Physicians, the hospital and president of the local company said.

The privately held company operates in 44 states, serving more than 510 hospitals and related surgical centers, imaging centers and clinics.

Sapphire, of Plains Township, has provided doctors and staff for the emergency department at the hospital since Jan. 1, 2001, said its president Dr. Henry Novroski.

A hospital spokesman said patients would not notice any difference in care.

The hospital chose TEAMHealth’s proposal over the one submitted by Sapphire. Its contract expires at the end of the year.

Novroski said he assumes it was a financial decision to select the larger TEAMHealth. “We were not replaced because of quality,” he said.

Hospital spokesman Kevin McDonald said TEAMHealth will “provide the physician component of ER care.”

“When a patient comes to the ER, they use our facility, our resources, our medications and nursing staff,” McDonald said.

He estimated 20 people including doctors, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will be affected by the change. The transition for patients will be “seamless,” he said.

A TEAMHealth spokeswoman said the hospital had adequately addressed questions about the change.

The Geisinger Health System runs the emergency rooms in its three hospitals, said David Jolley, associate vice president public relations and marketing. Two of them are located in the Luzerne County, Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre and Geisinger Wyoming Valley in Plains Township.

Novroski said that Sapphire, which has a staff of approximately 30 full-time and part-time members, will be dissolved as a result of the change.

Less than half of the staff is staying at the hospital emergency services department. Novroski counted himself among them. “I have signed with TEAMHealth for one year.”

Recruiting doctors for the department will be “the initial challenge” for TEAMHealth, he said, adding it has “been very difficult to recruit physicians to this area.”

Whether the switch is related to the hospital’s plans to enlarge its emergency services department could not be determined.

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital has begun a $100 million expansion and upgrade of its facilities. The current emergency care department occupies approximately 13,000 square feet and treats nearly 50,000 people a year. The larger department will occupy more than half of the new 96,000-square foot critical-care pavilion on West Linden Street.

“When a patient comes to the ER, they use our facility, our resources, our medications and nursing staff.”

Kevin McDonald Spokesman for Wilkes-Barre General Hospital
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