Andre Salvail

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June 17, 2014
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Aspen hospital board grants longtime surgeon a leave of absence

Aspen Valley Hospital’s board of directors on Monday approved a one-year leave of absence for Dr. Bill Rodman, who has managed the health care facility’s surgery department for 21 years.

At their monthly meeting, board members did not discuss Rodman’s request for the leave of absence nor anything else involving upcoming changes within the hospital’s surgery department. However, the published agenda stated that “general surgery” was to be a scheduled discussion topic during the board’s executive session. The closed-door gathering lasted about 90 minutes before the public portion of the meeting got underway at 5:40 p.m.

In December, Rodman was notified by hospital officials that his “exclusive provider contract,” which since 1993 has given him authority over surgical services at Aspen Valley Hospital, would be terminated on June 30. Also, his arrangement with the hospital for the lease on his North Mill Street office ends this month.

Starting on July 1, Denver-based Surgical Specialists of Colorado will start supplying the hospital with two surgeons through a one-year contract. Though the Aspen hospital essentially ousted Rodman by taking away his subsidies, earlier this year Rodman indicated to board members that he would maintain his hospital privileges and continue to perform surgeries as a private provider.

But Rodman, an outspoken critic of the board’s decision to hire Surgical Specialists, changed his plans recently. From a statistical standpoint, the Aspen area only needs 1.2 general surgeons, and Rodman would have been a third option. Hospital officials had encouraged Rodman to seek employment with Surgical Specialists so that he could remain at the hospital as one of the two surgeons, but Rodman’s negotiations with the Denver firm were unsuccessful.

“I have truly enjoyed the privilege of caring for and being a part of the Aspen community over these last 21 years,” Rodman said in a recent local newspaper advertisement. “For multiple reasons, I must pursue a different path.”

The leave of absence keeps the door open for Rodman to return to Aspen Valley Hospital with full privileges at some future date, hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche said.

Hospital CEO Dan Bonk said that before the leave of absence could be approved, Rodman had to come up with a plan for how his patients would be served. Rodman, who did not attend Monday’s board meeting, fulfilled that obligation, Bonk said.

Bonk said Surgical Specialists will have two surgeons in place on July 1. One currently is working part-time at a hospital in Alaska and is moving to Aspen to be part of the regular surgery rotation. The Denver group will supply a second surgeon on a temporary basis until another permanent hire is fully processed.

“We’ve got one surgeon who has signed a contract; he’s been credentialed and he’s ready to go,” Bonk said. “The second one actually committed on Thursday. They are two great guys, and they’ve worked together before in Level 1 trauma centers and small hospitals in Colorado.

“They like each other and they are both incredibly talented,” Bonk continued. “They want to live in Aspen.”

Dyche said the hospital is not yet ready to reveal the identities of the new surgeons.

Hospital officials began talking with Surgical Specialists last year following a highly publicized rift between Rodman and his junior surgeon of nine years, Dr. John Schultz. Rodman fired Schultz in April 2013 and the board upheld the decision.

The two men did not get along for several years, according to Schultz, because of personality differences, scheduling conflicts and other issues.

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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 16, 2014 10:05PM Published Jun 17, 2014 05:16PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.