News-Sentinel Editor Kevin Leininger interviewed Dr. Geoffrey Randolph recently about IU Health’s growth in the Fort Wayne market (http://www.news-sentinel.com/ne…/local-news/2017/…/04/90049/). Said Randolph, “Competition is good for consumers and could improve access, timeliness and, hopefully, quality. The article went on to say, “IU Health says it sees ‘a long-term presence in the Fort Wayne market’” and Randolph added “Everything’s been very positive; there have been no negative comments. A lot of people have approached us.”
Leininger also reported CHS CEO Wayne Smith’s remarks to analysts: “There’s a lot of distraction in the market, but we fully intend to protect our assets, our reputation and joint venture partners.” “Lutheran Health Network,” the article continued in paraphrasing Smith, “is hiring more doctors and is ‘doing all the right things’ in Fort Wayne.”
– This isn’t the first time CHS has said they are hiring doctors and spending money. We continue to doubt that $500 million is enough over six years, but it would be a significant boost over four years. A new hospital will cost in the neighborhood of $100 million (at $1 million per room/bed) and the new electronic medical record (EHR) will probably cost a bit more than planned—approximately $120 million overall. The need for more staff to improve patient experience (a current weakness) and keep pace with the competition will add significantly. LHN can do it if money made in Fort Wayne stays in town.
– The harder problem is hiring more doctors, especially specialists. Our newspapers are full of new primary care physicians who have joined Parkview. LHN’s numbers were already lower, and NICHE is not seeing the necessary hiring. We expect to see real hiring rather than locum tenens, or bounce-around physicians who have worked at 4 hospitals in the last 10 years. Hiring should be about team-building.
– It is good news that Lutheran Hospital has a new CEO in Paula Autry. NICHE believes she has the right experience and training. Our biggest concern is that she get the type of financial support from CHS that the job deserves, and that has to date seemed in short supply. IU Health will be a strong competitor with proven leadership by Dr. Randolf. We agree that competition will be good for patients, leading to improving clinical outcomes and an overall improvement in the health of individuals in our region.