The Benefits of Surgery in a Small Town

By Steven Zielinski, MD

People suffering with medical issues want and deserve the best care available, as close to home as possible.  Historically, this necessitated a balancing act for patients, between convenience and quality of care.  People like the convenience of their local community hospital, but conventional wisdom told them more complex medical issues, such as spine surgery, needed to be treated at larger hospitals or university centers.

With the changes that are occurring in medicine, this balancing act has become much easier for people living in smaller, more rural areas. Nowadays, many major medical issues can not only be treated well in local community hospitals, but in many cases can actually be better treated locally than at a larger hospital or university.

A combination of factors has led to this change.  Changes to insurance policies and health care laws have led doctors and smaller, community hospitals to create a new kind of partnership, which delivers the highest quality health care to patients, close to home. Of particular note is the forward thinking and proactivity of Parkview Regional’s administration with respect to health care. The result is that doctors like me, working in partnership with hospitals like Parkview, can now provide high quality, specialty service to patients, with better control over surgical outcomes and patient care.

The results have been so good that over the past year, I have altered the structure of my medical practice (Texas Spine and Neurosurgery) to work exclusively with smaller, local hospitals and surgical centers. Of course, the expected outcome has occurred – people in Mexia and the surrounding areas can now access high quality, local neurosurgical care.  Additionally, though, a happy and surprising result has also occurred – many people from the Waco area are now coming to Mexia to obtain neurosurgical care for their spines.

But, what is “better care” in practical terms? At Parkview and in my practice, it means fewer patients for each nurse to handle as well as some of the lowest infection and post-operative complication rates in the country. It also means that my patients, most of whom undergo operative procedures of the spine, have shorter hospital stays. When I worked at larger hospitals, my patients felt like they were just a number, and often required 2-3 days in hospital before being released for home. Now, their nurses know their names and the vast majority go home after only one night in hospital. It short, working with a community hospital like Parkview allows more direct, efficient care with better outcomes compared to a larger hospital.

With a new future to medicine fast approaching, we are entering a new era of boutique medicine, with smaller community hospitals and surgical centers leading the way. So, don’t be surprised the next time someone from Dallas asks you for directions to Parkview. They are just doing what the people of Mexia are doing – getting the best care available for their surgery, as close to home as possible.