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EXCLUSIVE: Rochester Regional Health hospitals recognized for approach to caring for those who are elderly

Two Rochester Regional Health hospitals, Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic and Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, are being recognized for how they approach geriatric surgery. They have achieved Level 1 Comprehensive Excellence status from the Geriatric Surgery Verification Program through the American College of Surgeons.  

What does that mean?

“It means that Unity first, then Newark then Clifton for the Finger Lakes region, has taken on the monumental task of changing the way we care for the elderly,” said surgeon Dr. Matthew Schiralli, who is the medical director of the geriatric surgery program. “What we had to do was not create the standards of the programs, that came from the American College of Surgeons. What we had to do locally was figure out how do you actually implement those standards in the care.”

Schiralli said he’s passionate about providing high-quality care for the aging population.

“I start many of my presentations off by saying, I know of a population that’s very difficult to communicate with,” Dr. Schiralli said. “That is vulnerable. That needs special consideration. Then I go to the next slide and I show the pediatric hospital. I say look – we recognize that in the pediatric population. Then we care plan around that. All of those things I said are transferrable to the geriatric population but we haven’t done it yet.”

Dr. Schiralli said RRH’S program is unique in that it’s not commonplace to have focused surgical care in the elderly. He said the hospitals didn’t create a separate department to do it. It created a prgram that exists in all of the departments.

“Not just the surgical department of orthopedics, urology and vascular, but also in the hospital medicine department,” Dr. Schiralli explained. “In the pre-admission testing department, in the department of anesthesiology. All of these different disciplines and therapies, this program exists in all of them now. It takes the skillset of all of these different areas and focuses it back on the patient. Everyone gets to bring all their specialty skills. Then, as a multi-disciplinary group, we care plan for that frail person. So we can provide anticipatory care. Rather than reacting after something has happened, we’re trying to anticipate what’s going to happen and avoid it.”

This program forces coordination among medical professionals. It also risk-screens patients, according to Dr. Schiralli. 

“Now, what we do, is we actually look for their vulnerabilities,” Dr. Schiralli said. “Meaning, how well does their brain function before and after surgery? How independent are they before and after surgery? What sort of support structure do they have? That laundry list of medications that they have, how do they interact with each other? And what can we get rid of?”

Dr. Schiralli wanted to emphasize the team-based nature of this care. 

“It’s truly not about me,” he added. “This is about the care delivery which involves all of the healthcare professionals that treat these patients.”