Healthcare District to Lose 1 Doctor, Gain 2 More

The Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District is losing one doctor next month, but two new physicians are slated to come on board afterward — one almost immediately afterward — district officials revealed last week.
The impetus for the physician shuffle, made public during Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the district’s governing board, is the looming departure of Dr. Marcin Matuszkiewicz, the district’s community-based physician since 2012.
Matuszkiewicz, whose last day is Sept. 23, is leaving to take a job with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., according to district Chief Executive Officer Matt Rees.
A week later, on Oct. 1, Rees said Dr. Tawfik Shabana will start working at the district. Shabana, who met with Rees and board members during a recent day-and-a-half visit to Southern Humboldt, specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics.
The start-date of the other physician, Dr. Yousri Gadallah, is less clear. Most recently based in western New York, Gadallah will be on the job as soon as he gets his California medical license, Rees said.
“We’re hoping it’ll be between October and December,” he added.
Gadallah is a family practitioner and a primary care doctor — in other words, a generalist.
The two physicians, both male, are in the middle-to-later stages of their careers.
“He expects to work another three to five years,” Rees said of Gadallah. As for Shabana, Rees said the doctor is planning on working for at least another decade.
While the pair have practiced medicine in the United States, they are both of Egyptian heritage. Shabana, in fact, is currently in Egypt and will be for the next several weeks.
“We’re trying to find time for him to work with Dr. Matuskiewicz [prior to Matuskiewicz’ departure] to get him familiar with the patients and our electronic medical record system,” Rees shared.
In terms of a base salary, Rees said Shabana and Gadallah would each be making $250,000 a year. “That’s the norm for California,” Rees explained. Matuskiewicz’ annual salary, in comparison, is $230,000.
As for duties, Rees said Shabana would work primarily in the clinic. “He’s mainly taking Dr. Matuskiewicz’ place,” Rees said.
While Gadallah will also do time in the clinic, he’ll assume more of the emergency room workload than Shabana, at least at first.
The fact that both men are of Egyptian heritage is not as strange a coincidence as it might seem. Gadallah steered Rees to Shabana after Rees told him he was looking to hire a pediatrician.
Knowing that Matuskiewicz would be leaving, Rees contacted Gadallah in the first place because they had worked together when Rees was CEO of Pershing General Hospital in Lovelock, Nev., located 90 minutes outside of Reno, from 2003 to 2010.
“Patients loved him. In the five years [that he was there], gross revenue tripled because he was so well-liked by patients.”
Besides being something of an old pro — Rees described him as “extremely knowledgeable” — Gadallah is a particularly skilled diagnostician.
Besides “using lots of diagnostic testing,” Gadallah also assesses patients the old-fashioned way: Through observation.
Rees recalled a time when his father-in-law went to see him and the doctor, in the space of one appointment, told him: “‘You have this and this going on.’”
“When my father-in-law asked him how he knew, he said: ‘By the way you walk and the smell of your breath and the way your skin and other things look.’”
Gadallah, Rees went on, also places importance on listening to what patients have to say.
“I took my daughter to him once and he told me to be quiet. He said he wanted to hear directly from her,” Rees related with a chuckle.
It’s safe to say that Board Chair Barbara Truitt is impressed with Gadallah. After the interview with him, which was conducted by telephone, she told her husband: “I could feel his heart over the phone.”
For what it’s worth, Gadallah was apparently quite an athlete in his youth, playing at one point for Egypt’s national soccer team.
Like Rees and Gadallah, Rees and Shabana have also crossed paths before, although much more briefly. “He left Milford the same month I got there,” Rees said, referring to Milford Valley Health Care Services in southwestern Utah, a facility similar in size to Jerold Phelps Community Hospital.
“They’ve both worked in rural facilities and [over the course of their careers] have delivered babies, taken care of nursing home patients and everything in between,” Rees summed up.
He said the fact that Shabana has “a heavy accent” might pose some challenges in terms of doctor-patient communication. To cope, he indicated that, if needed, medical assistants would be available to clear up any confusion.
“Some people’s hearing is not 100 percent. And you toss in an accent and it can be hard” for patients to understand what’s being said to them. Rees remarked.
He noted that the fact that Shabana is a pediatrician is serendipitous given the finding in a recent survey that the medical specialist people in Southern Humboldt would most like to see is a pediatrician.
“I was wondering how we were going to get a pediatrician,” Rees joked during the meeting last week.