Penn State Health apologizes for letter to patients over care

Written by The Associated Press | May 1, 2018 4:31 AM

FILE PHOTO: Courtesy Penn State Hershey Medical Center

*As a note of disclosure, WITF's Transforming Health project receives financial support from Penn State Health.*

(Hershey)  -- A midstate hospital is apologizing for a letter it sent to patients with multiple sclerosis telling them to seek care elsewhere because of the recent departure of four doctors.

Penn State Health sent the apology letter yesterday, telling patients that it remains committed to multiple sclerosis treatment at its hospital in Hershey despite the staffing issues.

It says it has organized a team to help patients in the short-term and is looking to rebuild the department long-term.

On April 17, the health system sent a letter to 2,100 neurology patients advising them to seek alternate care options for multiple sclerosis.

Two of the departing doctors took new jobs, and two retired.

With only one remaining neurologist in the multiple sclerosis service, the hospital was unable to meet patient demand.

The situation highlights a lack of medical specialists in parts of the state, said Dr. Michael Consuelos of the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania. Hospitals across the state have struggled to recruit enough specialists, who often tend toward working in cities.

"These are chronic conditions, which require long-term treatment or advise from a health care professional," Consuelos said.  "So in cases where you don't have enough neurologists in an area, that does create a huge backlog in care in that area."

Neurologists aren't the only specialty field showing a shortage, Consuelos said. Nephrologists, who specialize in kidney care, as well as rheumotologists and infectious disease specialists are also in need. 

He said rural areas have the toughest time filling these much-needed positions.


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