Sanpete County Loses Only Surgeon to Military Duty

Sanpete County Loses Only Surgeon to Military Duty

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News Specialist Sam Penrod reportingThe U.S. military buildup is affecting families across the country, and now one county in rural Utah is losing its only surgeon.

The surgeon, who lives in Sanpete County, performs surgeries at the county's two small hospitals and has been ordered to active duty next week.

The doctor will likely be gone for at least six months, but it all depends on if or when the U.S. takes military action against Iraq.

And now that the doctor has been called to active duty, there's concern about the health of patients and the financial viability of the hospitals he works for.

Dr. Randy Hansen has worked as a surgeon in Sanpete County for the last 10 years.

He performs an average of 25 operations a week, including everything from appendectomies to cancer surgeries.

But after being called up to active military duty in an Army Medical unit, Dr. Hansen says his patients are worried.

"They are asking me can they go too, who's going to take care of them now and that's the comments I'm hearing from all of them," says Dr. Randy Hansen, M.D.

While Dr. Hansen's absence at the Sanpete Valley and Gunnison hospitals will be an inconvenience for patients who have become used to undergoing surgery close to home, there's concern about having no surgeon available to perform emergency surgeries.

And with routine surgeries the best revenue source for these rural hospitals that are already struggling, hospital officials hope Dr. Hansen's deployment is kept to a minimum.

"If war breaks out and we have to extend that a long period, it could have some pretty harsh effects on our financial bottom line and staying open," says Warren Benincosa, Sanpete Valley Hospital administrator.

Dr. Hansen has served in the Army Reserve or National Guard for the last 26 years. While he's eager to help the troops, he finds himself caught in a dilemma as he leaves his patients behind.

"It's a desire of mine to go to the field and take care of them and serving our country, but at the same time I have several, hundreds of patients who rely on my surgical services everyday," Benincosa says.

Hospital officials are talking with some surgeons who work in Utah County, who may be able to take time off from their practices to handle surgeries at the Sanpete County hospitals while Dr. Hansen is away.

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