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Posted 2/16/16 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

This week the McKenzie County Farmer carries an exciting story on the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. working with the University of North Dakota Medical School on the development of a surgical program at our local hospital.
Considering that there are only six hospitals in the state that have surgical programs, the concept of having such a medical option being available at the McKenzie County Hospital is indeed exciting.  But the creation of a quality surgical program doesn’t just happen overnight. It not only requires a qualified surgeon being willing to come to a rural community, it also requires the training of a surgical team, and more importantly, the hospital needs to have surgical rooms.
All three of those factors are the main reasons that surgical services are normally only offered in larger communities. But thanks to the University of North Dakota Medical School’s new Rural Surgery Support Program, it is going to be possible for healthcare facilities, like McKenzie County Hospital, to provide surgical services. Not only does the program offer the services of a highly qualified surgeon in Dr. Mary Aaland, the program also helps our local healthcare system develop and train the surgical team.
So why is the University of North Dakota Medical School making it a mission to bring surgical services to smaller community hospitals? Because being able to offer those services in communities like Watford City makes sense for the patient.
According to Dr. Mary Aaland of the Rural Surgery Support Program, 65 percent of all the surgeries being done are considered “out-patient,” which means that the patient is not required to stay in the hospital. It is the University of North Dakota Medical School’s belief, that if some of those procedures could be performed in the community in which the patient lives, it would save the patient from driving those extra miles and incurring other travel costs.
With the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc. poised to begin construction this spring on a new hospital, which will include two surgical suites, the ability to partner with the UND Medical School in its Rural Surgery Support Program couldn’t have been more timely. Not only will Dr. Aaland perform surgical services in Watford City on a monthly basis, she will also help train and develop the surgical staff that will be required, including helping with the recruitment of a surgeon.
The building of a surgical program takes time. But more importantly, it takes a dedicated team of professionals to make it happen. We have that with the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, Inc.’s management team, Dr. Aaland, and the UND Medical School’s Rural Surgery Support Program.