Guest commentary: Hospital explains decisions about surgical care
Recently, the Aspen Valley Hospital board and administration have received input from a variety of people about surgery services for our community. Some statements have been accurate, some have been blatantly false and a few have been inappropriate and unfounded personal attacks.
The following narrative is our perspective, as we are the ones who have been intimately involved with the decision to contract with Surgical Specialists of Colorado.
A historical perspective
For many years, Dr. Bill Rodman had an exclusive contract with Aspen Valley Hospital to provide surgical services. His practice, which included himself and Dr. John Schultz, was heavily subsidized in order to ensure 24/7 coverage. When the relationship between the two doctors failed, Rodman exercised his right to terminate Schultz’s employment (June 2013), thus leaving the hospital and the community without two full-time surgeons. Rodman’s contract specifically stated that the hospital could not “unreasonably withhold consent.” Since then, Rodman and various temporary (locum tenens) physicians have provided surgical care. Concurrently, the hospital administration, board and medical staff were exploring possibilities for a second full-time surgeon.
In summary, all feasible options were considered and evaluated. Rodman’s views were heard by every board member and by senior administrators on multiple occasions over the course of several months. Surgical Specialists of Colorado was willing to incorporate Rodman into its practice. It negotiated with him for months, made concessions to accommodate his requests, and essentially offered him a contract that was fair and consistent with other senior partners in the group. Eventually, it was clearly communicated to Rodman that there was a deadline for signing on with Surgical Specialists of Colorado, thus ensuring a continued career in Aspen and an income subsidy. He also was told that should he elect not to become a part of Surgical Specialists of Colorado, Aspen Valley Hospital would still contract with them for the provision of two surgeons. Rodman elected not to join the surgical specialists group, but rather to continue as a solo practitioner.
About Surgical Specialists of Colorado
Surgical Specialists of Colorado is a Denver-based surgical practice comprised of 20+ board-certified surgeons. It is affiliated with St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, Clear Creek Surgery Center in Wheat Ridge, Red Rocks Surgery Center in Golden, Middle Park Medical Center in Granby and Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida.
Surgical Specialists of Colorado was chosen for the breadth and depth of services it offers, its stellar reputation in the state, its ability to transfer or recruit one to two surgeons (depending on needs) who would live and work full time in Aspen, its willingness to incorporate Rodman into its practice, and the group’s outstanding track record with other mountain communities and similar services.
The contract is effective July 1 and is for a term of one year. To date, we have been impressed with their expertise, professionalism, appreciation for teamwork and commitment to patient care. A member of the group spent last week in Aspen, interviewing with medical staff, visiting with nurses, meeting with a realtor and learning more about the schools and the community. A candidate for the second surgical position will be here next week. The notion of rotating, traveling surgeons that are not immersed in our community is blatantly false.
• The Aspen Valley Hospital/Surgical Specialists of Colorado contract was signed in early March. It calls for Surgical Specialists of Colorado to provide two board-certified surgeons who will live in the Aspen area; Rodman (by his own choice) is not a member of the surgical specialists group.
• The Aspen Valley Hospital/Surgical Specialists of Colorado contract is not an exclusive contract. Therefore, Rodman can continue to practice medicine at the hospital.
• The Surgical Specialists of Colorado contract will eliminate the use of temporary surgeons — there will be no “revolving door.”
• It has been suggested that contracts are made to be broken. That is not how this board and administration conducts business. The contract with Surgical Specialists of Colorado stands.
• By July 1, when the contract becomes effective, the hospital will have arranged and paid for 162 days of locum tenens coverage, allowing Rodman ample time off since the departure of Schultz.
• We spoke with five different surgical groups, exploring all reasonable options for surgery services via a lengthy due diligence process.
• The solution is economically feasible and a responsible use of hospital funds.
• Our decision was made with input from trusted professionals within our hospital, including physician leaders. We were not influenced by anything other than what we believe to be the best possible surgical care for our community.
Members of our community can count on the same high-quality care as one would expect in a large tertiary facility. There will be full-time coverage by surgeons who are established in our hospital — working with patients, physicians, nurses and other clinical staff on a regular basis, thus becoming familiar with our systems and processes and establishing a spirit of cooperation and teamwork.
Finally, patient choice of surgeon — a desire which we clearly heard from the community in June — will be re-established. Because Surgical Specialists of Colorado’s contract is not exclusive, Rodman will be one of the options for those who wish to continue to be his patient.
Thank you to all who have supported Aspen Valley Hospital through this process. Your trust in our decision is very much appreciated.
This commentary was written by Dan Bonk CEO, Aspen Valley Hospital; and David Eisenstat, Chuck Frias, Dr. Barry Mink and Dr. Mindy Nagle, members of Aspen Valley Hospital Board of Directors. Board member Lee Schumacher recused himself from the issue since he is a personal friend of Rodman and has served as his private attorney.