Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Fairview Hospital needs more full-time specialists

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I love Fairview Hospital. It's that simple. It is a gem.

No matter what happens to me or to anyone else in our area, our little hospital is there for us. Fairview is filled with incredible personnel, from the doctors and nurses in the emergency room to the patient care and nursing assistants on the wards. We are all proud of the great people who staff the Emergency Room night and day and of the ambulance squad who get those in need to the hospital in difficult situations. I am not alone in my admiration of Fairview. Virtually everyone I speak to in our area says the same thing.

There was a time when the very existence of the little hospital that could was in doubt. It may have been rumor, maybe not, but the town rose up as one and said "no." The powers that be at the Berkshire Medical Center seem to operate under a model in which their specialists are based in Pittsfield but some of the docs spend short amounts of each week in Great Barrington. The South County population would prefer to have our own cadre of specialists here in Great Barrington, or have the BMC specialists spend more of their time at Fairview. It's a matter of balance.

Unfortunately, the way things work is that people who would like to stay in South Berkshire (I was recently one of them) are put in an ambulance and shipped up to BMC. After all, that's where the specialists can be found. We do have some excellent people in South Berkshire like Dr. George Veinoglou, who does general surgery, or his wife, Sophia, a wonderful nurse practitioner who does a phenomenal job for all who need cardiac assistance. I recently had a comprehensive examination with her that rivals anything I have had with many of the cardiologists I have had to deal with in my now fairly long life.

I guess you can see the point I am getting to. Finding doctors who are specialists is not easy. While there are some specialists like the wonderfully accessible Dr. Pierre Boutin, who runs the orthopedics operation at Fairview, we could and should have more specialist doctors who could enable Fairview to be more self-sufficient.

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When Fairview holds a gala for raising funds, the people of our region turn out to help make the hospital whole. So much more is possible. Fairview needs a full-time cardiologist, despite the fact that Sophia Veinoglou does such a wonderful job.

It is no secret that doctors, nurses and other medical personnel want to work at Fairview. From the moment you enter the place, you feel the energy and the teamwork that makes the place so special. None of this is to imply that Berkshire Medical Center isn't adequate. It's just that Fairview needs more full-time specialists. It can't and it shouldn't become a shipping station for BMC.

I am sure that the powers that be at BMC understand the passion that exists in South County for Fairview. Kudos to them for understanding how important our hospital is. I certainly know that the people who run the place have no intention of shortchanging the South Berkshire community. Way back, when there was talk of closing Fairview, I made the point that if you are in the throes of a heart attack, you have just a few seconds to get to the hospital. The ride to Pittsfield is just too long.

It is up to each and every person who knows what I am talking about — appropriate staffing and monetary support for Fairview — to let the folks who are running things know how we feel about our hospital. We need Fairview at its best. It is there for us. Let's make sure we're there for it.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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