Editorial: AVH aims to heal surgical wounds
Hospital aims to heal wounds
On Monday evening, a public meeting was held at Aspen Valley Hospital in regard to the current general surgery situation and impending departure of Dr. John Schultz from the Aspen Valley Hospital medical staff. On behalf of the board and hospital administration, we appreciated the community’s comments and concerns. We felt it was a good exchange of information.
One message that was heard repeatedly is that our community wants choices. While it was noted by many that Dr. Bill Rodman is a fine surgeon, it also was felt that people should have the option of choosing another general surgeon in the community. We do not disagree and have every intention of adding another surgeon to our medical staff.
In the short term, a “locum tenens” physician will provide backup to Rodman for emergency call and days off. The use of locums has been practiced on many occasions over the years, even with two general surgeons on the medical staff, so this is not a new concept for our hospital. Locums physicians are vetted to ensure they have proper credentials and are well-qualified to handle a broad spectrum of surgical services, including trauma care.
As we look toward the future, we plan to bring another full-time surgeon on board as soon as possible. This will provide choice as well as continuity of care and cross-coverage of patients. Obviously, it is essential that the two surgeons have a positive working relationship that will enhance the care provided.
The issue of exclusive contracts for physicians also was discussed. The hospital has utilized exclusive contracts for specific specialties for many years, including general surgery. This practice is common in hospitals throughout the country, and it is particularly helpful in a small community. Here in Aspen, we have a population base that will support only slightly more than one surgical practice. Hospital leaders recognized many years ago that to expect a solo practitioner of this type to hold office hours, perform surgeries and be on call for emergencies any time of the day or night was not realistic — nor was it conducive to quality care.
The challenge, then and now, is how to maintain general surgical services in a community that can support only one practice. Thus Rodman was recruited and an exclusive-provider contract was developed. His contract — which has been reviewed and updated every five years — requires that he retain an additional surgeon to meet the hospital’s surgical needs. Because of this contractual arrangement and financial support from the hospital, we have been successful in retaining two very qualified surgeons for a number of years.
It is extremely disappointing to the hospital board and administration that Rodman and Schultz have had a deteriorating professional relationship. When it became apparent that their issues were escalating and had the potential to impact patient care, the hosspital hired a physician mediator to help them develop a functional practice with the communication necessary for transferring care and cross-covering patients. In addition, employment of the two surgeons was considered seriously. However, after two years of mediation without progress, it ultimately was determined that, under the circumstances, that was not the best solution for patient care and the community.
Thus we find ourselves in the situation we are in today. We acknowledge the concern of Schultz’s patients. And we understand the need to have more than one option for surgical care. We continue to analyze the various models — including hospital employment — that would provide the highest quality of medical and surgical care, both now and in the future. We thank you for your input and support of Aspen Valley Hospital.
Interim CEO, Aspen Valley Hospital
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Poor Elizabeth Milias, if she were a local, she’d know. (“The ‘L’ word,” commentary, Jan. 16, The Aspen Times)