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This morning, in a top-of-fold front page article, the Journal Gazette contrasted two public statements from Lutheran Health Network (LHN) (…/6-gi-doctors-back-with-luth…).

The first statement, issued before Christmas, read in part: “We are focused now on recruiting new highly skilled GI physicians who hold the physician-patient relationship to a higher standard and want to work collaboratively with us to advance quality and provide the best possible patient experience.”

The three key phrases in that statement–“New,” “highly skilled,” and “higher standard”–suggest that six of the departing GI physicians were to be replaced by highly skilled physicians of a higher standard. After all, would one not want to be rid of poorly collaborative physicians who cultivate a less-than-best physician-patient relationship?

Apparently this was wrong, because today’s statement from CHS’s Alice Robinson, again quoted in the Journal Gazette, included this: “We are pleased that these physicians who have a long history of providing care for the community have resumed patient care and will be supporting Lutheran Health Network’s work to strengthen and grow this service line through development of the Advanced Digestive Treatment Center, a dedicated care setting for patients with digestive issues.”

Are these the same physicians? Seemingly these GI docs are either: a) less than willing to be collaborative and remiss in their regard for the physician-patient relationship or b) have a long history of providing care. If the former is true, why are they good enough to rehire? If the latter is true, was CHS overly harsh in its first statement, meaning they are worthy of being retained? You make the call.

Why it really matters:
– It was not necessary for negotiations to be shut down and the physicians’ service to patients halted merely because their contracts were still in negotiation. Both sides could have agreed to continue “as is” for a short time.
– To NICHE, the implied stain on the physicians’ reputations seems to be unnecessary silliness.
– The real victims are the LHN patients who chose these GI doctors. We are told by reliable sources that more than a few were unable to be treated as scheduled and at great inconvenience should they have traveled a distance or undergone a bowel preparation only to be rescheduled. Some, we are told, may need to pay a 2018 insurance deductible or a newly computed co-payment.
– What happened to the contract negotiations that did not seem to put the needs of patients first?
The seventh GI Doctor, it seems, has not contracted. We know him to be of exceptional ability and popular with his patients. Will he return to LHN?
– The JG article referenced the Fort Wayne Physicians’ attempt to buy LHN from Community Health Systems. Why was that mentioned? Was it a factor in the way the negotiations were managed?
– All too often, NICHE is compelled to observe that what matters is deeds, not words.