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NICHE has been told that, for the second consecutive year, Lutheran Health Network has chosen to hire no residents from the Family Medicine Residency at the Fort Wayne Medical Education Program. Why? We don’t know for sure–but there are likely reasons, some of which are corporate and others local, according to LHN physicians we have interviewed.

If you visit the Community Health Systems (CHS) website (http://www.chs.net/) and click on “Physician Opportunities,” you are taken off the CHS site proper, with the caveat that “All CHS-affiliated Opportunities are promoted through PracticeLink”–to whom CHS apparently outsources this critical function. If you then click on “Career Opportunities for Physicians and Advanced Practitioners,” and choose Indiana, you will find this link, with 64 (or so) physician jobs listed:
https://www.practicelink.com/JobBoard/JobSearchResults.aspx…

NICHE counted 23 openings listed in Fort Wayne. Choosing a listing for “Family Medicine” may produce an offer looking like this, which “may” promise a salary consistent with Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) plus a production bonus ( https://www.practicelink.com/…/Indi…/St.%20Joseph%20Hospital).

Other compensation “may” be included–relocation costs, aid with student debt, a sign on bonus, vacation, benefits, etc. According to experienced Lutheran physicians, however, salaries are below local competition and help with student debt is rarely, if ever, offered. Other benefits that sound less local are statements telling candidates the driving distance to Chicago and Indianapolis. Again NICHE does not know why. J-1s Visas (Student non-immigrant) are ordinarily not accepted but H1b Visas are ordinarily accepted for foreign-trained physicians (see http://www.immi-usa.com/h1b-visa-doctors-requirements/). We approve of foreign-trained physicians and are fortunate to have many great examples in Fort Wayne, but we are wary of those who work primarily in a Locum Tenens capacity and who have a “rolling stone” pattern of never being able to settle into a community.

Local physician groups that work at LHN say that they can help recruit by entertaining, showing families the region, and attesting to the quality of practice, but they say CHS handles the paperwork so slowly that the time from contact to hiring is punishing–so excruciatingly long that candidates are often hired elsewhere before being made an offer by LHN. At times, physicians say, there is an “FTE hiring freeze” caused–one guesses– by financial constraints at CHS. These factors, say the physicians, have caused a growing gap between numbers of family physicians at LHN vs. Parkview.

So, to return to the question: Why? We agree that LHN provides robust and valuable participation in training local physicians, and for this we are grateful. It would seem that those who had benefitted from time to experience LHN and the high quality of its physicians and nurses would be the easiest to hire. NICHE suspects it has more to do with CHS paperwork inefficiency and maybe even hiring freezes and less with competitive salaries and benefits.