Editorial: Will Aspen hospital’s experiment pay off? | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Will Aspen hospital’s experiment pay off?

At a mid-May meeting of the Aspen Valley Hospital board, supporters of Dr. Bill Rodman, who has been the health care facility’s chief of surgery since 1993, decried the termination of his contract, which meant his practice no longer would be subsidized. The hospital has decided to hire a Denver-based company, Surgical Specialists of Colorado, which will supply two surgeons beginning July 1.

Rodman will retain his hospital privileges, meaning that patients can choose him when he is available. Rodman interviewed with Surgical Specialists for one of the two spots, but the two parties could not come to terms. Word has it the hospital is close to hiring one of the surgeons and interviews are underway for the second.

This all means that Aspen Valley Hospital will have three surgeons beginning July 1 for at least one year, the length of the contract with Surgical Specialists.

One could argue that having three surgeons is a good thing, giving the community more choices. In the strict sense of having more health care options, we believe it’s a positive.

Rodman doesn’t agree. He reminded board members of studies showing that the hospital only needs 1.2 surgeons. He said that he expects to receive 55 to 75 percent of the surgical caseload — a range that could prove to be true. The deal with Surgical Specialists doesn’t make financial sense, he explained, because obviously the Denver firm has a contract that requires it to be made “financially whole.”

If Rodman is getting the lion’s share of the surgeries, how can that be accomplished? He raises a good point.

One also wonders why the hospital — amid the national and worldwide collective corporate mindset of cold-bloodedness — didn’t just cancel Rodman’s privileges, a move that would have taken some of the risk out of the arrangement with Surgical Specialists. After all, some might say Rodman created the situation that resulted in his contract disposal when in April 2013 he fired his junior surgeon, Dr. John Schultz, largely because the two men frequently clashed over petty differences. (Schultz was popular with his patients, as well, and his departure also led to some community outcry last year.) Had Rodman and Schultz remained in their roles as they had for several years, and learned to get along, it’s doubtful Aspen Valley Hospital would have sought to bring in another group.

Severing ties with Rodman was a move that the hospital could not stomach, given his lengthy and successful record. His privileges never were in question.

However, at the same time, board members also had a tough choice to make, given a less-than-favorable state review of its trauma center last summer. The department retained its Level III trauma certification but was ordered to shore up some of its processes. Another review will be held this summer. By bringing in Surgical Specialists and its experience in trauma services, board members — according to what was said at the meeting — believe that they are making an improvement for the betterment of patient care.

Dr. Barry Mink, board chairman, told Rodman that he hopes Rodman will be able to work with the other two surgeons in a “collegial” atmosphere and iron out any differences over cross-coverage and the like. The hospital, Rodman and Surgical Specialists will know one year from July 1, or perhaps before, if the arrangement is successful.

Call it an experiment. We’re hoping for the best.

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