Raritan Bay hopes neurosurgeon partnership helps treat more patients

on Monday, 06 January 2014.

This article by Beth Fitzgerald originally appeared in NJBiz.

Raritan Bay Medical Center, of Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, is now the most northern New Jersey member of the Capital Institute for Neurosciences Network, in Hopewell, which connects surgeons with hospitals treating emergency room patients suffering from neurological ailments.

The network provides neurosurgeons who conduct telemedicine consultations with member hospitals treating patients suffering from strokes, brain trauma, tumors and aneurisms. The patients are treated at their local hospitals based on the telemedicine consultation, or are transferred to Capital Health for surgery or other advanced procedures.

Dr. Michael Ciencewicki is senior vice president of medical affairs for Raritan Bay, a state-designated primary stroke center. He said for several years, Raritan Bay has been sending neurological cases to Capital Health. Joining the institute moves the relationship to a new level, one where Raritan Bay will be have access to neurosurgeons via telemedicine.

This increases Raritan Bay's ability to manage stroke patients that don't require surgery or other advanced care, Ciencewicki said.

"Previously, we transferred a vast majority of them, because of the unavailability of the neurosurgical consultation," he said. But through the Capital Health institute's relationship with the national Specialists on Call network, "we can discuss the case and decide whether to keep that patient here at Raritan Bay, or transfer the patient."

He said Raritan Bay "sees a significant number of stroke patients. We treat the vast majority here, but in those complicated cases where we feel they need some type of (surgical) intervention that we don't have the capability to do here, we transfer them" to Capital. In 2012, Raritan Bay had 430 emergency department patients who were evaluated for stroke or a possible neurological event, according to a spokesman.

Dr. Erol Veznedaroglu, chairman of neurosurgery at Capital Health and institute director, came from Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in 2009 to build a regional center for neurosurgery at Capital Health, which he said now enables more patients to remain in New Jersey.

Veznedaroglu said he advocates for New Jersey hospitals working together to create clinical specialties. For example, he said, Capital refers cardiovascular surgery patients to other New Jersey hospitals that have invested in that specialty.

"Let us all do what we do best and work together to provide the best care and keep patients in the state," he said.

He said at Jefferson, about 60 percent of his patients were from New Jersey.

"That is horrendous when you think that a lot of these patients have time-sensitive brain problems — acute strokes, ruptured aneurisms in the brain, head trauma — and are wasting valuable time being flown out of state."

He said more than 80 hospitals now refer neurological cases to Capital, including the Virtua and Lourdes systems in southern New Jersey. He said New Jersey hospitals historically have been intensely competitive, but "there should be more hospitals working together, instead of fighting each other."

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