A new doctor on staff at Kennewick General Hospital wants to improve the odds for diabetic patients of recovering from wound infections without the drastic step of amputation.
"If we treat (infections) earlier, we can save limbs and save lives," said Dr. Jimmy Chua, an infectious disease specialist.
Chua has worked in a private practice in the Tri-Cities for 10 years, but said he recently signed on with KGH because he likes the public hospital's mission.
"I like to help in a lot of public issues," he said. "I like to work with the (public hospital) because my approach to treatment is not only private, but public."
Chua plans to bring a public health approach to treating wound infections by forming a team that includes not only his infectious disease expertise, but endocrinologists, vascular surgeons, podiatrists and other kinds of medical professionals who would be treating patients with diabetes to take a holistic look at how to improve a patient's chances of avoiding amputations.
Patients with diabetes can develop neuropathy -- nerve damage in the feet that leads to loss of sensation -- as well as chronic bone infections and chronic wounds because of poor blood flow.
Amputation is a real risk for patients with uncontrolled diabetes, but Chua said amputation can put patients at risk for complications such as becoming prone to falls or pneumonia.
But an aggressive approach to treating wound infections could prevent some of those amputations, he said.
The program also would include education for patients about good footwear and the role of diet and exercise in controlling blood glucose and managing obesity.
Chua has an office on West Grandridge Boulevard where he will see patients, but he also will work with the hospital to improve infection control, streamline treatment of infections, review the antibiotics used at the hospital to make sure the best ones are being given to patients, and participate in preparations and planning for emergencies such as bioterrorist attacks or pandemic outbreaks.
He is KGH's liaison to a monthly meeting of local health professionals to discuss issues related to infectious diseases, including the prevention of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, whooping cough, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections.
He also is instrumental in organizing an annual medical education conference called "What's New in Medicine?" that provides medical professionals with the latest information about medical topics affecting the community. This year's conference is Sept. 9-10 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.