Wound, Ostomy and Continence Health Center provides a necessary service
When Donna Niehs experienced trouble with an infection after surgery on her left foot, she sought help from the professionals at Wound, Ostomy and Continence Health Center at Columbus Community Hospital.
Niehs was living in North Dakota in 2019 when she had surgery to correct a problem with her toe. Within a few days after her surgery, she got an infection that spread rapidly. The condition got so bad that amputation of her leg below her knee was a consideration.
Concerned that her mother wasn’t getting the best treatment that she could, Niehs’ daughter, who lived in Stromsburg, sought advice from a local physician who recommended the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Health Center.
For months, Niehs came to the clinic for treatment with Dr. Ron Ernst. Now, about a year later, the infection that affected her foot and leg is under control. The wound that used to cover most of her foot has healed to the size of a nickel.
“Everyone has been so wonderful. I’ve been very pleased. My family has been very impressed with Dr. Ernst. The nurses have been so good too,” Niehs said.
Ernst is a certified wound specialist and the clinic’s medical director. He, along with doctors Brandon Borer, Myron Morse, Jeremy Albin and, the newest addition, Jacob Oran, help patients manage wound issues at the clinic. Nurses who are certified in wound, ostomy and continence care also help treat patients.
The clinic opened in 2008 in the Healthpark Medical Office Building at 4508 38th St. It has proven to provide a needed service to people in Columbus and the surrounding area. Each year, about 2,000 patients receive care at the clinic.
Donald “Chopper” Sieh of Columbus is one of those patients.
Sieh is diabetic and started to go to the clinic 11 years ago to treat wounds that develop on his feet due to poor circulation.
“The wound clinic has always done a fine job for me. I think I’ve had all the doctors work on me at one time or another. They have all been outstanding,” Sieh said.
Many of the patients seen at the clinic are like Sieh and have ulcers that develop from a health condition like diabetes.
“The classic diabetic has a loss of sensation in their feet called neuropathy. They don’t even know they are getting these sores on their feet. Often when they do come in, the wounds are infected. We have to clear the infection before we can start the healing,” Ernst said.
Other common wounds treated at the clinic are arterial ulcers, which develop because of a lack of blood supply to the lower limbs due to the hardening of arteries, and venous ulcers, which occur when there is a problem with blood flow in the veins in the leg.
Wound-specific treatment options at the clinic include:
- Debridement and surgical intervention.
- Compression therapy.
- Advanced dressing and treatment modalities.
Most of the treatment done at the clinic is on an outpatient basis and is for wounds that don’t heal or have improvements for four to six weeks.
“Many people have wounds for months or years. We deal with chronic wounds, not so much acute wounds. Acute wounds usually end up healing by themselves unless they have underlying problems, like obesity, diabetes or heart disease,” Ernst said.
Patients often require multiple visits for treatment. The team of physicians and nurses also develop personalized treatment plans that include self-care at home. The home-care-plan helps improve the outcome for the patient.
“Some wounds never heal. That doesn’t mean we don’t stop treating them. We try to teach those patients how to live with a non-treatable wound. Fortunately, most wounds do heal if you find the problem,” Ernst said.
The staff at the clinic takes a comprehensive approach to treatment by working closely with a patient’s primary care provider throughout the process.
“Patients with chronic wounds that do not heal also have other medical issues that are being addressed by their primary provider. We work with their primary provider in trying to optimize that person’s health so these wounds will heal,” Ernst said.
The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. For more information about the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Health Center at Columbus Community Hospital, visit our W.O.C Health Center