Digestive needs now met at Muncy hospital

PHOTO PROVIDED Vivek Kumar, MD, medical director of the Digestive Disease Center at UPMC Susquehanna, performs a colonoscopy.

MUNCY — Getting a colonoscopy isn’t exactly one’s idea of a good day, but it can make for a productive one.

Tracking digestive health can help people prevent, identify or treat problems such as colon cancer, infections and other potentially life threatening issues. Colonoscopies are especially recommended to people over the age of 50, according to Stop Colon Cancer Now, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness and helping prevent the disease. Colon cancer affects about one in every 20 Americans and the older population is more at risk, according to the organization.

The procedure also allows doctors to discover polyps, or “fleshy tumors that begin as benign but have the potential to become cancerous if allowed to grow,” according to the organization.

To help more community members access digestive health care, the Digestive Disease Center of UPMC Susquehanna Health now offers basic services at the Muncy Valley Hospital. Experts with the hospital and disease center collaborated with representatives from Muncy to expand services in an effort to provide for more people, more often.

Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. two Wednesdays per month with the first day of procedures being today. More days for office hours and procedures will be added as needed.

“We’re doing two days per month initially, then we will ramp it up based on need,” said Dr. Vivek

Kumar, medical director of the center. “Dr. (Heather) Gerst saw six patients the first day, and five people are already scheduled for the first procedure day. Gerst will have another day of office hours and we’re expecting it to be at least the same, if not better.”

Kumar said people’s need for digestive services have expanded, lengthening wait times and minimizing availability at the center. So, offering these services in Muncy not only provides for that community, but may also help reduce wait times for patients who need basic services in Williamsport.

“We already serve that community but what I’ve quickly realized is there is a need right there in the community,” he said. “If we could provide our services right there, it would be much easier for the people in that area.”

Other UPMC Susquehanna endoscopists will work with Kumar to provide services both in Williamsport and Muncy. All providers have been cross-trained and updated on the latest technology, he added.

“It’s a smooth transition,” Kumar said. Some complex endoscopic procedures still will be referred to Williamsport Hospital but all basic services are completed in Muncy.”

The Digestive Disease Center in Williamsport started about five years ago and now has five gastroenterologists, several endoscopy nurses, LPNs and other assistants.

The center performs about 5,000 endoscopy services per year, and offer complex therapeutic procedures such as stone and polyp removal. Anywhere from 10 to 14 endoscopic services can be performed per day. Kumar added that the center exceeds the national average for quality of care.