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Expanded primary care, new technologies highlighted at Atlantic General Hospital

Access to more primary care options, the addition of new, innovative technology and workforce recruitment efforts highlighted a Q&A held recently with Atlantic General Hospital and Health Systems President Don Owrey.


Atlantic General Hospital and Health Systems President Don Owery updates residents on changes and improvements underway at the Worcester County healthcare facilities.
Tara Fischer/ Bayside Gazette

By Tara Fisher, Staff Writer

Atlantic General Hospital and Health Systems President Don Owrey recently updated local residents on priorities, changes and upgrades at the local facilities. 

 “At Atlantic General Hospital, we focus on five pillars,” Owrey said during the March 21 Q&A at the Ocean Pines Library. “The first is strengthening our core service. We are a community hospital, and we are focused on ensuring that our patients receive high-quality, efficient, and safe care.” 

Owrey maintained the importance of skilled medical staff. In September 2023, pediatrician Cristian Salgado joined the team at the new Gudelsky Family Medical Center, which is near the Ocean Pines South Gate entrance. Gastroenterologist Scott Itzkowitz was also hired in February. He is a military veteran who spent time on the Navy and Army side of healthcare. 

Primary care recruitment is a priority for the hospital system, as the need for more family and internal medicine remains. Owrey said patients are leaning into urgent and emergency care as a result. 

“We are trying to expand access to more primary care,” he said. “The inability to tackle this issue is one of the things that has most disappointed me in the twenty-plus months I’ve been here. Primary care is a strong foundation for strong healthcare, and we are working on that.”

The facility is also introducing new technology. In September 2022, AGH became the first hospital on the Eastern Shore to offer Mako SmartRobotic joint replacement surgeries. The machinery allows surgeons to deliver increased accuracy and a higher quality of care. 

The hospital implemented new video equipment for minimally invasive procedures that require highly complex monitors. The system also plans to upgrade MRI and CAT scanning technology in Fiscal Year 2025, which providers need to diagnose and treat patients. 

Owery said AGH is focused on increasing and strengthening its workforce. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have become burnt out, leading to a shortage of doctors, nurses, and physician assistants. Hospital officials have attempted to remedy the issue by partnering with Wor-Wic Community College’s nursing program. It has also eliminated all agency staffing, which uses outside businesses to facilitate hiring. 

The facility has reduced harm events, including falls, medication errors, and infections, by 50% over the last year. The Joint Commission also designated the hospital as a Center for Excellence in Orthopedic Care in the fall.

Recruitment is at the top of the system’s priority list. AGH aims to partner with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to establish a scholarship that requires awardees to commit to working on the lower Eastern Shore post-residency.  

This story appears in the April 4, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.