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ETMC Quitman ends OB program due to physician team relocation

QUITMAN, Texas - The relocation of one of the two physicians who provide obstetrical services at ETMC Quitman has led to the decision to close maternity services at the hospital, effective December 31, according to Chris Stipe, ETMC Quitman chief executive officer.

"When Dr. Alan Eli unexpectedly announced he was leaving the Quitman community, we were left with only one physician to provide OB care. Many of Dr. Eli's OB patients transferred their records to Dr. Norman Hicks, while others transferred their records to physicians in Tyler or Sulphur Springs," Stipe said.

Since that time, Dr. Hicks has been on call for OB patients virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"It is difficult to recruit family medicine physicians who also deliver babies. With no viable candidates for the Quitman area, the decision was made to discontinue the service." Stipe said. "We are never happy to discontinue any clinical service. Providing OB services has been a labor of love at ETMC Quitman for many years, but we couldn't carry on indefinitely without a partner to share call with Dr. Hicks."

In addition to the challenge of physician recruitment, declining reimbursement and increased malpractice costs have made it difficult for any small hospital to continue delivering OB services, he noted. ETMC Quitman delivers an average of 100 babies a year, or about two each week.

The hospital employs three full-time OB nurses, who are likely to seek other opportunities within the hospital. Currently, seven patients who are scheduled to deliver their babies at ETMC Quitman before year's end will do so.

However, assistance has been given to other patients scheduled to give birth in 2008 to transfer their medical records to other physicians and hospitals.

New patients seeking OB care are also referred to other physicians. Women who need an OB doctor in Tyler are encouraged to call the ETMC HealthFirst Call Center at 1-800-648-8141 for a physician referral.

Women who wish to seek care in Sulphur Springs should call Hopkins County Memorial Hospital's physician referral line, 903-439-4062. Although the hospital was forced to halt its OB program, it continues to be a busy and growing facility, Stipe said. ETMC Quitman recently ended its fiscal year with a seven percent increase in admissions and a 22 percent increase in outpatient visits. ETMC is a not-for-profit organization committed to improving the quality of life in communities throughout East Texas.

For more information about the ETMC Regional Healthcare System, please visit on the internet at www.etmc.org. Other ETMC facilities include hospitals in Athens, Carthage, Clarksville, Crockett, Fairfield, Gilmer, Jacksonville, Mt. Vernon, Pittsburg, Quitman, Trinity and Tyler.