NEWBERRY — Michael Bernardo said he and his staff make a great team because they all worked with him in some capacity before Bernardo Geriatrics opened in January.
Nurse practitioner Rebecca Rowan began working with Bernardo in 2006 at his practice and transitioned in 2012 to work with him in nursing home, hospice and home care settings. Laura Odom was a nurse practitioner student from Clemson who worked rotations around 2009. She has worked in the office since 2011.
Lab technician Tracie Turner has worked with Bernardo for 22 years. Turner draws patients’ blood at nursing homes and assisted living locations in Newberry and does the lab work for the practice’s patients.
“They’re really appreciative that she helps out,” Bernardo said about the nursing homes having help from Turner.
Turner is also employed by Select Labs, an independent company. Bernardo said anyone could come have their blood work done through her and it would be sent to the ordering provider.
“She has the gentlest touch of any lab tech I’ve ever worked with,” Bernardo said.
Lynn Dowd, who works in the office, was one of his first employees when he opened his practice in 1998. Bernardo said Dowd makes people feel welcome and cared for, and makes sure to get messages from patients to all of their providers daily since they spend so little time at the office.
“We’ve got a great team,” Bernardo said. “I think that’s key. People feel like they’re being treated kindly.”
Medicare and Medicaid costs make up approximately $1 trillion in the national budget and it’s getting greater, Bernardo said.
“Fifty percent of the Medicare costs are due to 5 percent of patients,” Bernardo said. “Those are the people we take care of — the sickest and frailest of people.”
That was one of the main reasons Bernardo said he wanted to devote his time specifically to geriatric medicine. His concern was that those people were falling through the cracks and ending up in the emergency room for the smallest of things because they had no personal doctor.
“When we see them on a regular basis, we’re not only providing great care, but are decreasing the total cost of their care,” Bernardo said.
It’s about the patients
The majority of the practice’s patients come from recommendations from the nursing homes in Newberry or are at-home patients with mobility issues who are unable to visit a doctor’s office without difficulty.
Bernardo said a few people come into the office for visits. Most are patients who were previously treated at home or in a nursing home, but have improved their mobility to the point that a home visit is no longer justified by Medicare.
Home visits are something Bernardo said he enjoys about his job. Going into someone’s home, Bernardo said, allows him to see the bigger picture of what that person’s life is like.
“When patients come to a doctor’s office, it’s like they are on our turf. They are very appreciative when you come to them,” Bernardo said.
No two days are ever the same, he said. Typically Turner begins the nursing home visits between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. and returns later in the morning to do lab work.
Dowd gets to the office each day at 8 a.m. to answer the phone, along with questions for patients. Bernardo said there are no set office hours because 99 percent of their patients are either in a nursing home, assisted living or in the community.
“An elder living at home and hasn’t seen a doctor in five years — that’s what we want to do most, help those types of people,” Bernardo said.
The Golden Rule for Bernardo Geriatrics is to simply treat others the way they want to be treated as a patient.
“I think we have the right team to do that here,” Bernardo said.
For more information, Bernardo Geriatrics can be reached at 321-3035.