By Gayl Biondi
Just a short drive from the Palm Springs desert resorts is the high desert’s Morongo Basin, home of the 794,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park and the largest U.S. Marine Corps base in the world. The Hi-Desert Medical Center — with a modern, nonprofit 59-bed acute primary care hospital — has been serving residents and visitors there for nearly 40 years. Hi-Desert Medical Center is also part of the San Bernardino County trauma network.
Since January 2012, a new group of young, energetic physicians is making history with a new management style that greatly improved patient care in the emergency room. Says Dr. Edward Cooper, director of emergency medicine for Hi-Desert Emergency Physicians, “We are in the top 5 percent in the nation for both ‘door-to-doctor’ and ‘door-to-discharge’ wait times. Our triage system screens patients quickly, so they can be out the door within three hours instead of the national average of four hours.”
Patient care is not just quick — it’s quality. Dr. Cooper hand-picked the board-certified ER doctors for his group as a team that’s highly focused on positive outcomes and patient satisfaction. Most of the Hi-Desert Emergency Physicians staff have worked for or continue to work for Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, among other noteworthy institutions. “With the high level of expertise and commitment our team delivers, there is no reason for patients to go anywhere else for treatment,” Cooper observes.
Since the physician group took over management of emergency room services, patient complaints have been drastically reduced, just as wait times have gone down. The improved triage system allows some patients to be quickly assessed and released without waiting for a full doctor examination. Dr. Cooper gives patients his personal cellphone number in case any follow-up is needed or any additional problems occur.
Because of the Morongo Basin’s rural setting, Dr. Cooper has made it a point to stay in close contact with surrounding medical facilities. He regularly meets with the leadership at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and Desert Regional Medical Center to ensure that the lines of communication are open for cooperation and collaboration. As a result, critical patients can be transferred efficiently when time is of the essence.
Hi-Desert Medical Center’s emergency room gets 25,000 visits per year with all manner of health concerns from heart attacks to hiking injuries to gunshot wounds. As a stand-alone organization, Hi-Desert Emergency Physicians employs its own doctors who make their own decisions regarding treatment and medical care. “Patients can be assured that the doctor who’s treating them is the person who makes the decisions,” stresses Dr. Cooper.
Dr. Cooper, who has been with Hi-Desert Medical Center for four years, has also served on staff at Eisenhower Medical Center and JFK Memorial Hospital. He and his team get the critical support they need from Hi-Desert Medical Center CEO Bob Tyke and COO Judy Austin. Says Dr. Cooper, “Our job is made easier thanks to the efforts of hospital founding physicians like Dr. Prim Salholtra, an internist who has dedicated his life to the Hi-Desert community; chief of staff Dr. Summit Mahajan, a very strong clinician; and Dr. Gharghoury, an intensive/pulmonologist. They have all been instrumental in our success.”
The medical team members of Hi-Desert Emergency Physicians are Daniel Injo, M.D., John A. Lambros, M.D., Bohdan T. Olesnicky, M.D., David Tang, M.D., Todd S. Sallenbach, M.D., Adam Weissman, M.D., Jeffrey Klempen, D.O., Carol Engel, N.P., Pardip Gill, N.P., Stacie Cooper, P.A., Russ Pisano, N.P, Nicole Wetherholt, P.A., and Gary Baldwin, P.A.
Hi-Desert Medical Center is the primary provider of health services in the Morongo Basin, serving a population of more than 53,000, with more than 90 physicians in 25 medical specialties, and over 600 employees. Services include a wide range of quality inpatient and outpatient diagnostic, treatment, and rehabilitation services, home health and hospice services, and a variety of community outreach services. On-site radiology, laboratory, and intensive care clinicians, in addition to the latest medical technologies, support the emergency department.
Hi-Desert Memorial Health Care District is a California District Hospital owned by the citizens of the Morongo Basin and supported by property taxes. Licensed by the state of California and fully accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations and the California Medical Association, the hospital holds membership in the California Healthcare Association and the Hospital Council of Southern California.
6601 White Feather Road
Joshua Tree, CA 92252