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For the week of August 30 through September 5, 2000

St. Luke’s Radiologists released, no surgeon on call

Doctors raise concerns


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

For about a dozen days this month, St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center has not had a general surgeon on emergency call, and Monday, the center operated for five hours without a physician radiologist.

Problems with emergency surgical coverage may continue, but temporary arrangements have been made for radiology services, according to St. Luke’s chief administrator Jon Moses.

Yesterday Moses said in a telephone interview, "from my perspective, this is no news. This is the life of a hospital administrator."

Until this month, three general surgeons had practiced in the Wood River Valley and had shared emergency call coverage at WRMC, according to Dr. Alice Police.

On Aug. 9, Police ended her general surgery practice in the valley after 10 years

Moses said Monday that Police caused the scheduling problem by not adequately informing the hospital of her move to a medical clinic in Newport Beach, Calif.

Police, 47, said in an interview Tuesday of last week that St. Luke’s had known about her departure for months.

As for the scheduling problems involving general surgeons, Moses said there’s "still a chance" they’ll continue because the surgery department is still understaffed. St. Luke’s is currently looking for a replacement for Police, he said.

He said the hospital had experienced no need for emergency general surgery services on the days when there was no coverage.

If a patient did need emergency surgery and no surgeon was on duty, Moses said the patient would be airlifted to Boise or Twin Falls depending on the patient’s needs.

Moses told the Mountain Express that the Boise Radiology Group will provide temporary radiological services until the hospital finds a permanent solution.

Police said general surgery is considered an "essential service" that hospitals should guarantee. She said she did not remember a time during her practice here when there wasn’t a surgeon on call for emergencies.

Police said she told the hospital more than six months ago that she would be leaving her practice. She attributed the lack of emergency coverage to poor scheduling.

Police said she left her practice here, in part, because she is frustrated with St. Luke’s Hospital, which is currently managing WRMC.

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During a Monday telephone interview, radiologist Dr. Greg Taylor said that St. Luke’s had released him and his partner, Dr. Dennis Davis, which left the hospital with no radiological services.

Taylor said he had worked as a radiologist in the valley for 11 years, and Davis had worked as a radiologist here for 20 years.

Dr. Kathleen O’Neal, who trained in women’s imaging at the University of Utah, recently joined their group, called Mountain Medical Associates.

With the new hospital scheduled to open Nov. 19, a St. Luke’s review board has been evaluating existing contracts with hospital-based physicians to decide whether to renew them, a hospital press release announced Monday.

Radiologists Taylor and Davis had a three-year written contract with the hospital that expired June 30, Taylor said. Since then, he said, chief administrator Moses had assured them that St. Luke’s would offer them a new contract to work at the new hospital now under construction.

In the meantime, Taylor said he and Davis had been fulfilling their previous contractual obligations in good faith while working without a contract.

Davis and Taylor said Moses gave no reason for St. Luke’s declining to offer them a new contract.

"This is a case of misplaced trust," Taylor said. "Based on Moses’ representation, we brought on board [a new employee], and I purchased a new house in Indian Creek. I trusted him. That was my mistake. I should have gotten it in writing."

Moses said he sees it differently. He said he was "very disappointed" that Taylor and Davis stopped working for the hospital.

A St. Luke’s press release shed little light on the matter. It states the Community Council—an advisory group of local residents chosen by St. Luke’s—"has decided to seek to contract with a [different] group of radiologists."

The Community Council, the press release stated, "determined that the services provided by [Davis and Taylor] would not adequately meet the needs of the new medical center and its patients."

Members of the Community Council are: Ann Agnew, Candida Burnap, John Chapman, Nancy Cord, St. Luke’s president Ed Dahlberg, Dr. Joseph David, Dr. Frank Fiaschetti, Morley Golden, Dr. Kathleen Haisley, David Hinson, Wilson McElhinny, administrator Jon Moses, R. William Nelson, Joan O’Neil, Bud Purdy, Will Storey, Preston Strazza, Dr. Jon C. Thorson, Dr. Stephen Wasilewski and Gene Whitmyre.

According to the press release, "Due to the legal and ethical issues surrounding such contract decisions, management and Community Council members must respectfully decline to discuss any further details of this decision."

The press release also stated, "Contracts for all other hospital-based physician services, including pathology, anesthesia and emergency services, are moving forward with the physicians currently at the Wood River Medical Center."

 

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Copyright 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.