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New neurosurgery program brings tertiary-level care to the community

State-of-the-art care in a rural setting

For all the idyllic benefits of rural living, proximity to healthcare can sometimes be a challenge. In the Waynesboro, Fishersville and Staunton areas, Augusta Health serves as a hub of primary and secondary care, but for years many patients needing tertiary care (highly specialized care) had to travel to other hospitals. As of June 2020, Augusta also offers tertiary care in its newly minted Neurosurgery Program.

“It’s been a dream of mine to bring a neurosurgery program to a community hospital,” says Clark Bernard, MD. “It’s always nice to build something from the ground up.”

At Augusta, that dream began to take shape around 2018, when Dr. Bernard joined the Spine Clinic and began reviewing data on past inpatients who might have been helped by neurosurgery if the hospital had been able to provide it on site. The data was decisive: There was a definite need for neurosurgical services, and the benefit of keeping that care local was without question.

While some patients may be referred to a neurosurgeon by their primary care provider or another specialist, others come from the emergency room (ER). Slipping on ice, falling off a ladder, getting into a car accident or experiencing any other trauma that results in loss of consciousness could require the care of a neurosurgeon. Having a specialist in the same facility as the ER helps physicians remain in close contact from one department to another and transition care seamlessly.

“This service is new to this region, but it’s similar to the care patients would receive at any tertiary facility, such as the University of Virginia,” Dr. Bernard says of the new Neurosurgery Program. “We have the ability to do minimally invasive brain surgery and treat almost any adult brain problem.”

The Neurosurgery Program has one neurosurgeon, Dr. Bernard; one neurosurgical nurse practitioner; four nurses; and four surgical technicians trained to perform intracranial procedures. The program has three specialties: orthopedics, neurosurgery and physical medicine rehabilitation. While the program grew out of the Spine Clinic, it differs distinctly in that Augusta can now offer a comprehensive neuroscience approach as it relates to cranial disorders as well as spinal conditions.

The Neurosurgery Program launched this summer. New patients are welcome by referral, especially those looking to transfer their neurological care closer to home.

Learn more about Augusta’s neurosurgery and Spine Clinic physicians at augustahealth.com/locations/augusta-health-spine-clinic, and make an appointment by calling (883) ACH-HLTH.