Fired Aspen Valley Hospital surgeon Dr. John Schultz to work as ‘locum’
The Aspen Times
Dr. John Schultz said Tuesday that he plans to remain in the Aspen area and will work as a “locum,” the term for a doctor who travels around the country and fills in at health care facilities that are temporarily or permanently short-staffed.
There’s a huge demand for locums nationwide, said Schultz, the Aspen Valley Hospital general surgeon who recently was terminated by Dr. Bill Rodman, the surgeon who holds an “exclusive provider” contract for surgical services at the hospital and who was Schultz’s boss for the past eight years.
Schultz claimed he was let go because he and Rodman couldn’t get along, and Rodman and the hospital’s board members and administrators who upheld the termination admitted as much during a nearly two-hour public meeting in the hospital’s boardroom on Monday night. The meeting was attended by more than 100 community members, some of whom voiced support for either Rodman or Schultz.
Others asked questions about the continued need for the “exclusive provider” arrangement, which Rodman has held for nearly 20 years. His latest contract expires in December 2015.
Schultz, a Snowmass Village resident, said he knows he won’t be hired back at taxpayer-supported Aspen Valley Hospital, either as an in-house surgeon or a locum. He said his point in going public about his termination, which he views as unfair, was never about him.
“Rodman and the board made up their minds about what was going to happen with me,” he said. “It’s really about doing what’s right for the hospital and for the community. The board and the administration need to look at these contracts. They need to look at the way they make their decisions. They need to be accountable and responsible to the public.”
Schultz, who was fired during an April 9 executive session of the hospital board and informed of it on April 17, said he regrets that he no longer will be able to see his patients or accept new ones. Officially, he can see the ones he’s already worked with, for follow-up services, until Monday. He’s been working temporarily out of the offices of Dr. Gail King. He no longer has hospital privileges.
“I have no interest in trying to elbow my way into some other market in the valley,” he said. “I’m going to keep my house here and do locums work.”
Schultz described his contentious relationship with Rodman as on the level of “personal bickering.” While he was employed, there was never a communication breakdown between the two that resulted in a patient-care problem, he said.
“I was disappointed by the implication (by a board member at Monday’s meeting) that there was,” Schultz said.
Schultz said a typical argument with Rodman might have related to scheduling, with Schultz making plans in advance to be off a few days, only to have Rodman overrule his vacation at the last minute.
“It was small things that built up over time,” Schultz said.
Rodman said during the Monday meeting that he no longer would be willing to discuss the rift between him and Schultz or the “exclusive provider” contract, in a public setting.
He said he would use “locums” at AVH while he searches for a replacement for Schultz.
“Terminating this contract (with Schultz) was a tough one for me,” Rodman said. “I’m back to (being on call) 24-7. No, that’s not optimal. … Yes, it is not perfect to have locums in here. Yes, we’ve had locums in here before when (Schultz) and I have been gone, at certain times.
“I thank you all for your time, I thank you all for your thoughts, but this is a private matter, a private contract. I don’t wish to discuss it further in public forum,” he continued.
The hospital’s interim CEO, developer John Sarpa, served on the hospital board until Dave Ressler stepped down as chief executive last month. Sarpa said Tuesday that the hospital administrators and board members would continue to examine exclusive services as they relate to general surgery.
Schultz and hospital administrators had been discussing the move to direct employment for general surgeons for several months before his termination.
Sarpa said it’s his understanding that a direct-employment model for both Schultz and Rodman had been contemplated, but obviously there was a breakdown.
“While that might have been a readily feasible model at the beginning of those discussions, as those discussions proceeded, I think what became clear to our administrators was that the model itself became less important because the lack of communication and the ability of the two of them to function effectively together overtook whatever the model itself might have presented as a better formula,” Sarpa said.
Sarpa said whatever “models” are discussed for the general surgeons in the future, “we want it to be much more effective in the long term and with a lot less turmoil for everybody.” The focus should be on getting physicians the proper amount of time to spend with their patients, “not many of the other things we’ve been struggling with.”
He added that the Monday meeting, originally scheduled as an official board meeting, provided a healthy discussion about the situation. Two of four board members were out of town and couldn’t attend, so there was no quorum.
“We wanted people to have the opportunity to ask questions, and we also wanted to listen and learn, to further understand,” Sarpa said. “I thought it was a very good exchange of information both ways. I hope that’s what it was. That was the intent of it.”
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Summer in Snowmass may have felt busier than usual this year because of increased weekday visitation.