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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, July 20, 2017 1:00 am

Local doctors defend Lutheran staff in fight

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Six highly respected local physicians, the architects of Lutheran Hospital's heart and kidney programs, are speaking out in support of Lutheran Health Network doctors and staff in an ongoing clash with Community Health Systems.

Fearing their legacies are at risk, the physicians chided the Franklin, Tennessee-based parent company for what the local men see as a lack of support for current providers and programs.

Drs. Robert Dettmer, John Dyer, Michael Mastrangelo, William Clark, Thomas Hayhurst and Ronald Scheeringa signed the letter sent to The Journal Gazette on Wednesday.

Although the doctors have mostly hung up their stethoscopes, their interest in Lutheran's well-being hasn't waned.

“Early adoption of dialysis, cardiac surgery, dedicated coronary care critical care units, heart transplantation and artificial heart technologies, a dedicated burn unit, an emphasis on mind-body wellness, and kidney transplantation are just some of the very advanced technologies that we helped develop within the Lutheran Network,” they wrote.

As the physicians noted in the letter, some of the medical specialties have been available to local patients exclusively through Lutheran's eight-hospital network.

“We have always felt that these services provided world-class care locally and attracted the 'best and brightest' co-workers to labor with us. These services, in many ways, represent our professional legacies,” the letter stated.

“It has become increasingly apparent that much of that legacy is in danger of being profoundly neglected. We fear that the caregivers who provide these services are no longer being given the support required to maintain and grow the environment of cutting-edge excitement and expansion that we helped to foster,” they wrote.

The doctors supported allegations leveled by critics that the cash-strapped parent company has used profits generated by Lutheran's network to make up for losses elsewhere in its portfolio.

“Community Health Systems needs to know that we feel they are entitled to a fair profit, but not at the expense of our health care. If they cannot achieve that balance, they need to turn over the reins of Lutheran Health Network to an entity that can,” the letter stated.

It's unclear what “entity” the doctors are suggesting could take control.

A group of 10 local doctors spent months orchestrating a $2.4 billion buyout offer that was rejected by the CHS board in May as being at least $1 billion too low.

The doctors officially disbanded Fort Wayne Physicians LLC in late June and said they won't pursue another buyer for CHS's majority share in the Lutheran's network.