The health crisis created by the arrest of popular Main Street physician Dr. Pravin Mehta has overwhelmed local healthcare providers as patients scramble to find new primary medical care.
The 74-year-old Dr. Mehta was arrested at his busy office by a task force of federal, state and local police officers on Jan. 27 and indicted on a raft of drug and fraud charges. Since then, hundreds of patients have been flooding the emergency room at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and nearby clinics operated by the hospital looking for treatment.
"This is the population that needs care the most," said Memorial President and CEO Joseph Ruffolo. "We have seen a sharp increase in the number of patients using our emergency room, but we all know that is not the way to provide high quality medical care."
In an unprecedented response to the crisis, Memorial will be opening a completely new primary care facility in the seventh-floor office suites above the parking ramp directly across the street from the hospital, Ruffolo said.
"These patients need care sooner rather than later," he said. "As the community's safety net, we knew we had to move quickly to meet their needs."
Hospital officials said that -- contrary to several lurid news accounts -- many of Mehta's patients were elderly people with serious medical conditions, including diabetes and congestive heart failure.
"Despite the healthcare community's best efforts, there is a critical shortage of the resources needed to provide timely care to those patients, many of whom are suffering from congestive heart failure, renal failure, diabetes and other chronic illnesses," said Ruffolo. "Their most pressing need is a doctor to oversee their care without having to wait six weeks, eight weeks or longer for an initial appointment -- if they can get an appointment at all."
Memorial was able to compress a lengthy process for establishing a new primary care center into two weeks, working with the state Health Department to gain the necessary approvals in order to address the crisis, he said.
Dr. Maria Crea, executive officer of the Medical Society of the County of Niagara, praised Memorial's efforts.
"The medical society has received an overwhelming number of calls from these patients during the past 10 days," she said. "Many said they have been unable to find a new doctor. The Niagara Falls Memorial Primary Care Center will be a godsend to them."
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Feb. 15, 2011|