Wheeling Hospital sets opioid guides

WHEELING – In an effort to curb drug addiction, Wheeling Hospital has implemented a series of guidelines for its emergency-trauma center personnel in prescribing opioids to treat pain.

Under this policy, opioids are to be prescribed less frequently, in lower doses and for shorter periods.

Dr. Angelo Georges, the hospital’s chief medical officer, announced the hospital’s new opioid prescribing guidelines at a Tuesday press conference attended by U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld and medical personnel.

The guidelines are composed of 10 principles designed to promote more effective prescribing of opioid medications, a category of drugs commonly used to treat pain. The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health voted May 17 to accept the opioid prescribing guidelines, which were developed by a subcommittee organized by Ihlenfeld’s office.

“As physicians, we are obligated to stop or ease the pain and suffering of our patients. However, we must do so in a manner that helps the patient, not create additional problems for them,” Georges, who chaired the subcommittee, said. “Therefore, Wheeling Hospital has adopted opioid guidelines and will be very proactive in encouraging our staff to be mindful of these guidelines.”

The program includes a series of descriptive posters that will be displayed in the emergency department to educate patients about the hospital’s policies for treating pain and prescribing opioid medications.

“In addition to educating our staff and the medical community in general, these guidelines will also serve to educate the public as to the opioid prescribing regulations. We thank U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld and his staff for working with us and other local medical facilities in developing the guidelines in order to get a stronger handle on this issue,” Georges said.

Ihlenfeld said he’s hopeful the guidelines will have a positive impact on the region’s drug abuse crisis.

“Medical professionals are in a unique position to curb the abuse of prescription pain medications by prescribing opioid drugs less often, in smaller quantities and for shorter durations. I commend Wheeling Hospital for embracing a program that will reduce the available supply of narcotic painkillers in our region via the implementation of this proactive initiative,” he said.

Ihlenfeld’s office also hopes to get other facilities in the district to adopt the guidelines.

“It’s going to take more than one facility to make a difference,” he said.

According to Wheeling Hospital’s new guidelines, opioids should not be the first course of action in treating a patient for pain.

“Whenever possible, emergency department staff should consider the use of nonopioid medications and other alternative pain-relief treatments before opioid analgesic medications are prescribed to treat a patient’s reported pain,” the guidelines state.