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Cape Girardeau's two hospitals have introduced a new program both in name and service to the region.

Southeast Missouri Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center have teamed up to offer hospitalists, doctors who are employed by hospitals, to care for patients who are admitted and don't have a local doctor. The hospitalist cares for the patient through his or her stay. It is a needed service, the hospitals say, because so many people who go to the hospital and are admitted don't have a doctor.

The program has begun by providing care for adults. Later in the year hospitalists will begin caring for children.

The number of these unassigned patients is expected to increase as the two hospitals move toward merger and putting themselves in the regional health-care market.

Doctors are in favor of the program because they won't have to take turns being on call for such patients. It also assures these patients that a doctor will be available to them at any time in an emergency.

It is a program that has worked well elsewhere and will do the same here.