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Jerold Phelps Community Hospital begins recruiting for new physician

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GARBERVILLE- Two months after a small plane crash took the life of a beloved ER doctor, staff with the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District are beginning the recruitment process.

"It's been really hard for all of our staff to adjust to not having him because he was such a good doctor and a good person and everybody had their own special relationship with him," ER Acute Nurse Angela Landry said. "So I think that has been really hard, but I think especially in hospitals things just have to keep going."

In remembrance for Dr. Douglas Pleatman, the hospital is moving forward. An official ad is now posted on their website for a physician at Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville.

"The position of ER Medical Directer is one that's critical to this community," Human Resources Manager Dee Way. "You know, we've covering just over 775 miles and we only have 10000 residents but the array of issues a physician sees in our ER really spans the gamut." 

But recruiting a doctor to a rural area like Southern Humboldt is challenging. Hospital officials say finding a doctor who has all of the qualifications on paper is just the first challenge.  The second is finding someone who has compassion and can understand the community for who they are.

"The consequence of recruiting and having the wrong fit come to our community can be much greater than the cost of recruitment," said Harry Jasper, CEO of the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District. "So our desire is to find those that share our values of putting patients first through excellence, integrity and compassion, that share our vision to become the healthiest community possible and are willing to lead that type of change and that type of mission that we seek to fulfill."

Along with the will to live in a remote area, the doctor must be comfortable working alone at times..

"They are tasked with having to make decisions on their own and also working in a situation where they might not have the most up to date equipment or the ability to refer to a specialist right away," Way said. "So, the physician needs to be ready to think critically and treat patients as they come in."

With a normal staff of seven physicians, a new doctor would work on rotating shifts consisting of a seven day week with 24 hours on call. The hospital says hours like those can make doctors shy away, making the recruitment process that much more difficult. However hospital officials say on an average, doctors on shift are working four and a half hours straight each day. They say with that average, the hours of availability are much more reasonable.

It took the hospital nearly two and a half years to bring in a resident doctor the last time they were hiring. They say they plant to take their time again while choosing the next physician. Although Dr. Pleatman's legacy is irreplaceable, they say they hope to find someone that will push forward for change and development in rural medicine.