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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 14, 2017 9:33 pm

More local leaders step down at Lutheran

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

And then there were two.

Only two independent voices remain on the advisory boards of Lutheran Health Network and Lutheran Hospital after Tom Kelley submitted his resignation today, one day after Chuck Surack stepped down.

The local business leaders said their frustrations finally boiled over after seeing several high-quality administrators and doctors pushed out in what they described as payback for a failed takeover bid.

"I don't want people in this community to believe that I in any way condone what (Community Health Systems officials) are doing," Kelley said in a phone interview. "It's a travesty."

The number of people estranged from Lutheran Hospital and its network continues to grow. Three physicians this 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.

Tensions between parent company CHS and local workerswent public in late May when CHS rejected a $2.4 billion buyout offer orchestrated by 10 local doctors. The physicians wanted a private equity group to acquire majority control of Lutheran Health Network from Tennessee-based CHS.

Fort Wayne Physicians LLC leveled accusations at CHS of neglecting investment in Lutheran’s eight-hospital network while CHS characterized the buyout attempt as amateurish. The parent company said it was unaware of local workers’ concerns but would begin addressing them immediately.

CHS announced plans to invest $500 million in Lutheran’s network over the next five or six years. Skeptics doubt the cash-strapped company will be able to fulfill that promise. Kelley and Surack are among those skeptics.

Mike Eikenberry and Bill Zielke, the remaining local advisory board members who aren't physicians, said today they are evaluating whether to continue their service on boards that have no official authority to direct the health care network.

sslater@jg.net