For the first time in its history, Northern Inyo Hospital will have an orthopedic clinic under its management.
Formerly run by Mammoth Hospital, the existing orthopedic clinic in Bishop will be taken over by NIH and renamed Sierra Crest Orthopedics and Neurology.
Orthopedist Dr. Mark Robinson, who has worked at the clinic since 2005, will run the facility.
According to Robinson, he contracted with Mammoth Hospital in 2005 to work primarily in the Bishop clinic. When several orthopods left the area, there wasn’t sufficient service to NIH patients, he said. Finally, in the spring of 2012, NIH Chief Executive Officer John Halfen, Mammoth Hospital Chief Executive Officer Gary Boyd, Mammoth Hospital Orthopedist Dr. Tim Krall and Robinson began working on a collaborated effort to provide more service to NIH, continued Robinson.
The NIH Board of Directors accepted the proposed cooperative arrangement; however, it was rejected by the Mammoth Hospital board for a variety of reasons. Mammoth Hospital subsequently decided to close its office on NIH premises. Its other Bishop clinic near Line and Home streets will remain open, added Robinson.
After Boyd suffered a stroke, Dr. Gary Myers stepped in on his behalf and Myers and Halfen continue in their endeavor to make this transition with minimum disruption, explained Robinson.
Robinson stressed that Myers “was in a very good position to facilitate” since he has physical therapy practices in both Bishop and Mammoth and he lives in Bishop. “He has been very good about collaborating with Northern Inyo (Hospital).”
On Dec. 19, 2012, the NIH Board of Directors approved Robinson’s pending contract. Halfen said that while NIH is not required to provide the public with an orthopedist, “we do it as a service to the Emergency Department and to the community.” Watercott said of Robinson, “You’re a good doc. Welcome. We’re glad to have you as our orthopod.”
Robinson said that he is hopeful that the Bishop clinic will officially open as Sierra Crest Orthopedics and Neurology by the end of January. According to Halfen, Robinson has been managing the clinic “all along. He will be the lynchpin of the whole orthopedic practice.”
As a result, the community can expect a multi-pronged upgrade to the orthopedic clinic which is still located in the Pioneer Medical Building, 152 Pioneer Ln., Suite A.
Robinson said he is interested in starting new programs and building on existing ones. “There are areas where we can do a lot quickly.” For example, there are no industrial medicine, i.e. workers compensation, and sports medicine programs in Bishop. He also wants to “develop an organized approach to building an osteoporosis and fragility fracture program (to serve the area’s) large retirement community.”
Although Robinson will continue to take calls in Mammoth five to eight days per month for a while, he has recently become a permanent Bishop resident and said he is delighted with the move.
“Almost my entire team is coming over to join me at Northern Inyo … This is the best team I’ve ever worked with. I was crestfallen at the prospect of it being disbanded” but fortunately, that didn’t happen.
Robinson took a moment to introduce his team, which brings more than 140 years of collective medical experience to Sierra Crest:
Orthopedic Clinic Coordinator Robyn Yanez, R.N. brings “extensive OR and clinic experience,” said Robinson. Yanez added, “We will be providing surgical services here to all of our patients,” bringing up one important procedural change. Sierra Park clinic patients will be required to have needed surgeries done at Mammoth Hospital; Sierra Crest patients must have their surgeries done at NIH.
Physician Assistant Ellen Roza said, “ I have extensive experience in all aspects of general orthopedics, and spine, with special training in industrial relations. Our office works together collectively to give quality (service) with compassion and kindness. That really sums up how we all operate … why we’re so successful. Everyone matters, from the front office to billing to the patients … That’s the power of being positive.”
Radiology and Orthopedic X-ray Technologist Linda Reeve has “lived in Bishop forever and has worked with all the doctors. She is a real anchor (offering) more orthopedic continuity than anyone else in Bishop,” said Robinson. Personally, Reeve said she won’t miss the two-hour, round-trip commute – and that’s in “perfect weather” – from Wilkerson to Mammoth Lakes twice a week. “We’re going to continue to give excellent neurological and orthopedic care in Bishop.”
“The entire Eastern Sierra really,” added Neurologist Dr. Doug Will, whom Robinson described as “a tremendous resource; neurology and orthopedics go hand in hand.”
Orthopedic Technician Loree Smith, former owner/operator of a Mammoth pack outfit, began her medical career as a backcountry first responder and on ski patrol. Smith said, “We’re happy to serve the community we live in,” adding that an open house is being planned.
To round the staff out, two front-office registration clerks will be hired and on staff by Jan. 11, according to Certified Physician Practice Manager Lisa Harmon, the administrative liaison between NIH and its clinics.
Robinson said that in order to build the clinic he envisions, he may need to hire a second doctor. However, there are other options to explore first such as bringing in highly sub-specialized surgeons. These “locums,” or traveling practitioners, will “do a clinic and perform surgeries and be back (at NIH) every 2-3 three months;” that would remove the burden from local patients who must travel for hours for specialty surgeries, staying in hotels and doing without family visitations.
Robinson said, “In my personal opinion, if the two hospitals or the doctors cooperate with each other in multiple areas, then there will be enough medical care for the whole population, but if they don’t, we’ll have to recruit,” said Robinson.
And what does Robinson bring to the table? “I have been very careful to build a practice in Bishop: joint replacement, trauma, general orthopedics, complicated orthopedics – such as deformities, limb lengthening and infections. For the past several years, I’ve been the only person taking calls for Northern Inyo (Hospital) orthopedics. It has put a real crimp in my personal life. I have created trust with (NIH) to build something more.
“Another expression of my commitment was to buy a house here” recently, a move which was motivated in part by the fact that he “spends a lot of time here, climbing and running the trails.”
Another strong point in Robinson’s favor is that he turned down a sizable contract offered by Mammoth Hospital. “I couldn’t take it in good conscience. It was too high and carried a lot of impractical responsibilities.”
The journey that led Robinson to Sierra Crest began as a 1979 medical school graduate who finished his residency in 1985 and passed his medical board exams in 1987. His parents and both grandfathers were doctors, as is his wife, he explained. “It seemed like a good line of work, helpful, interesting and offers an independent lifestyle,” Robinson said. He practiced in Ventura County from 1985 to 2005 when he moved to Mammoth.
With regard to Sierra Crest’s future, Robinson said, “Ultimately, and a lot of people agree, there would be more services, better organization and lower costs to patients if Mammoth Hospital and NIH work together. Cooperation has to be of benefit to both parties. People should work on this as a long-term goal.”
Sierra Crest Orthopedics and Neurology can be contacted at (760) 872-7766 until the end of the month when its new number will be (760) 873-2605.