WESTFIELD – Sundeep “Sunny” M. Shukla, MD MBA FACEP is the new chief of emergency medicine at Baystate Noble Hospital, and he has a vision.
Shukla believes Baystate Noble has a lot to offer and plans to expand its emergency department.
“We have new physicians coming in,” Shukla said, adding that among them is an ultrasound expert ready to share more knowledge with staff.
A native of Missouri, Shukla took a fellowship in emergency department administration at Baystate Health in 2009, working at Baystate Medical Center until 2016 before moving to Baystate Franklin Medical Center. In early 2020, Shukla came to Noble after having conversations with Ron Bryant, president of both Baystate Noble and Baystate Franklin.
“We both had the same vision,” Shukla said. “We want to provide the best possible care for the Westfield area and see patients in a timely, efficient manner.”
Shukla, who lives in Northampton with his wife and two daughters, said he knew from a young age he wanted to be a doctor.
“In junior high school I volunteered at a hospital for a summer and I loved it,” he said.
Shukla’s sister is a surgeon and his parents owned businesses. It was his parents who inspired him to earn his Master’s in Business Administration and combine that with his love of medicine.
“I wanted to learn the business side of medicine,” Shukla said.
Knowing about business operations has fueled him to create more efficiencies in emergency medicine and allow the emergency department to give better care to more patients quickly and efficiently.
Since Baystate acquired Noble Hospital in 2015, there have been changes. Shukla acknowledged some services were moved to other hospitals and the longtime staff at Noble has endured a lot.
“They are fantastic,” he said. “We all have the same goal, which is to provide excellent care in this community. They have embraced me with open arms, and we share the same vision.”
Additional physicians and staff are not the only changes at the Baystate Noble emergency department. Shukla said telehealth will be used more widely for patients as well as their families.
“We’re using technology to make a difference,” he said.
Shukla said when COVID-19 first began hitting the community in March, communication with patient families was difficult. Since then, he and staff have been working on improving communication.
“Right now, a lot of hospitals don’t allow visitors, so we will be giving patients ipods so families can talk to our patients,” Shukla said.
Shukla said COVID protocols will change the future of hospitals and how patients and visitors interact, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“COVID-19 is something we have never seen in our lifetime,” Shukla said. “The world has changed, people are doing things differently.”
Baystate Health has instituted ways to keep patients and staff safer.
“As we resume services that have been paused during the pandemic, we are doing everything we can to provide safe care in our facilities. Whether you need to visit the ED for an emergency or you’re coming in for a visit, we assure you that we are taking detailed measures to keep you safe,” sates the Baystate Health website
Screening patients and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms
Providing caregivers with essential PPE
Practicing physical distancing
Designating areas in our emergency departments for patients with suspected COVID-19
Educating our staff continually on COVID-19 prevention
Shukla, however, said he does not believe the challenges of the pandemic are anywhere near over and urged people to continue to take precautions of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.
“It’s not over yet,” he said. “It’s not time to let our guard down.”
Shukla also urged people with health concerns to come to the hospital.
“People have been avoiding the emergency room during COVID-19 because they’re worried,” he said. “But they are often waiting too long, and they are getting sick or have other concerns that need to be addressed – people should not hesitate to come to the hospital if they need treatment.”
Shukla said the community has done a great job of working together to slow the virus spread.
“We will get through this,” he said.