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(Denison, IA) – A recent article in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons explored the issue of general surgery availability in rural areas of the U.S. The conclusion? A shortage of rural surgeons is likely to increase in the future. The reasons? Fewer young doctors are choosing general surgery and the rural surgery workforce is aging.

Abby Houston, Surgery Manager at Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH), doesn’t think the forecast is as dire as some might believe.

“At hospitals like CCMH, I don’t believe we will see a time when we don’t have at least one general surgeon on staff and available to perform most procedures,” Houston said.

“Our surgical staff performs over 1,000 procedures per year. CCMH has significant professional support for anesthesia, and our staff does an excellent job of assisting our surgeons. On top of that, we have up-to-date technology and equipment for both surgery and anesthesia making our procedures safe and convenient for our patients,” Houston noted.

Dr. David Wright and Dr. Michael Thorstenson, are both Board certified surgeons. With more than 40 years of combined experience, they lead a surgical staff with 90 years of cumulative healthcare skill. In addition to Abby Houston, Surgery Manager, the surgical staff includes Mary Hugg, Lisa Steffen, Megan Muhlbauer, Jodi Henderson, Deb Brock, Peggy Werkmeister, and Sandra March.

Along with common general surgery procedures for gallbladders and hernia repairs, Houston provided a list of additional procedures performed regularly at CCMH.

“Orthopaedic procedures such as joint repair and replacements for hips and knees, surgery for shoulders, feet, elbows, and hands, cataract surgery, gynecological procedures, cesarean sections, tonsillectomies, urology, and soft tissues. And that’s not the entire list,” she said. “Our surgery services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because of that, we also handle more emergent procedures like fractures, appendectomies and bowel resections.”

Houston noted the CCMH Patient Transportation Service is also a tremendous benefit to those who utilize CCMH for their surgical procedures.

“We find that care compliance is increased and recovery times are shortened when patients have reliable transportation for follow-up appointments. The volunteers who operate the Patient Transportation Service for CCMH are really providing an invaluable service in helping patients maintain access to health and rehabilitation programs.”

Houston’s confidence regarding surgery services at CCMH is based on several factors.

“First of all, Denison is a growing community with many younger people relocating to our area to work and raise families. Second, Crawford County has a growing economy with many local businesses adding positions. Finally, the start-up of the nursing program at Western Iowa Tech will provide a larger pool of nurses who are looking to establish their careers in a modern, up-to-date surgery setting. We also anticipate a continuing trend of local students going off to school, then coming back to our area to establish their careers.”