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Two of nine physician members of Dupont Hospital’s board of directors have submitted their resignations in the past few days, becoming the latest local leaders to step away from a board associated with Lutheran Health Network.

Dr. Arvind Surendran, an anesthesiologist, submitted his letter Friday, citing personal reasons.

Dr. Todd Rumsey, who was a founding member of the board 17 years ago, emailed his letter Monday evening to board chairman Mike Poore, who is interim CEO of Lutheran’s network.

Dupont Hospital’s 12-member board includes three representatives of majority owner Community Health Services, Lutheran’s parent company. Physicians, including Rumsey, own 28 percent of the hospital.

Rumsey said he could no longer defend the board’s decisions to its critics.

“It’s just become very apparent in the last eight weeks that CHS is going to use their 72 percent (ownership stake) to do what they think is best,” he said during a phone interview. “It’s no longer possible for me to support all of the decisions that come from that boardroom.”

Dupont’s board was shaken up last month when CHS booted out Brian Bauer, Aaron Garofola and Paul Moss and replaced them with Poore, Marty Bonick and Brad Cash.

Bauer was CEO of Lutheran’s network and Lutheran Hospital until he was forced out June 12. Garofola, former Dupont CEO, was reassigned within CHS on the same day.

Since then, additional leadership changes have swept through the Lutheran community.

Three physicians on Friday afternoon resigned leadership positions on the Lutheran Health medical staff: Dr. James Cameron, Dr. Matt Carr and Dr. Marlene Bultemeyer. They will continue to treat patients, however.

Other high-profile administrators who are out include Dr. Steven Orlow, Lutheran Hospital’s full-time chief medical information officer; Dr. Geoffrey Randolph, the Lutheran network’s chief medical officer; and Matt Sutter, Lutheran Hospital’s chief medical officer.

Rumsey and Surendran aren’t the first board members to voluntarily vacate their seats.

Chuck Surack, founder of Sweetwater Sound, and Tom Kelley, president of Kelley Automotive Group, resigned board seats last week. They were two of four independent members of the Lutheran Hospital and network boards of advisers.

The other two non-physician members, Mike Eikenberry and Bill Zielke, said Friday they were evaluating whether to continue their service on boards that have no official authority to direct the health care network.

Michael Barranda, a city councilman, attorney and member of St. Joseph Hospital’s board, on Tuesday said he might reconsider his board membership.

Barranda, R-at large, said he hesitates to walk away, however, because he wants to do anything he can to ensure the community has a strong downtown hospital.

“I’m evaluating where things are at, frustrated with where things are going,” he said.

Trust between the opposing groups reached a low in May after CHS officials spurned an effort by 10 local doctors to persuade CHS to sell its share of the network to an investment group approved by the doctors.

The CHS board said the $2.4 billion buyout offer for Lutheran Health Network was at least $1 billion too low and handled so unprofessionally that it couldn’t be taken seriously.

The doctors said the real reason CHS doesn’t want to sell is that Lutheran’s network makes $200 million to $300 million in annual profit, and CHS needs to continue siphoning that money to prop up its failing corporation.

Franklin, Tennessee-based CHS has promised to invest $500 million in Lutheran Health Network over the next five or six years despite struggling with significant financial challenges, including a loss of $1.6 billion, or $15.54 a share, for last year.

Numerous people associated with Lutheran’s network have scoffed at the cash-strapped company’s ability to keep the promise.

Throughout the conflict, CHS and local workers have stressed that high-quality care is being provided to patients. But some doctors have warned they aren’t sure how long that will remain true without additional resources, including more support staffers, updated equipment and renovated facilities.

Dr. Rumsey, an OB-GYN with Women’s Health Advantage, will continue to treat patients at both Lutheran and Parkview Health-owned facilities.

Dr. Surendran, an anesthesiologist with Associated Anesthesiologists of Fort Wayne, will continue treating surgical patients within Lutheran’s network.

Associated Anesthesiologists has a longstanding contract with Lutheran’s network, according to a news release late last month from CEO Howard “Skip” Balkenbusch.

The practice supports “Lutheran Health Network’s efforts to provide high-quality health care services for the local community,” Balkenbusch said then in a statement.

Surendran began treating Dupont patients eight years ago, immediately after finishing his residency.

“It has been such a pleasure to work with an interactive board and experience the outstanding outcomes of cooperative collaboration between physicians and administration,” he wrote in his three-paragraph resignation.

Rumsey’s letter recalled how he has participated in staff orientation over the years. During those sessions, he promised new co-workers three things: the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives; Dupont’s support in doing their best work; and access to the necessary resources.

“Our team members have a right to insist on our keeping those promises, which result in the Dupont Difference,” he wrote, referring to the hospital’s motto. “Regretfully, I can no longer guarantee that these promises will be kept, and whether they are or not is beyond my control.”

Source: The Journal Gazette