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KH board votes not to form surgical practice

Posted: May 30, 2013 5:01 p.m.
Updated: May 31, 2013 5:00 a.m.

KershawHealth will not form a surgical practice with general surgeons Edward A. Gill and Paul Christenberry.

The KershawHealth Board of Trustees voted during a finance-focus meeting Thursday morning to rescind its previous authorization for President and CEO Donnie Weeks to negotiate agreements with the two doctors.

In a statement released to the press around noon Thursday, Weeks said he concurred with the board’s decision.

“Given the financial challenges stemming from cuts in Medicare reimbursement and from South Carolina’s decision not to expand Medicaid, the board deemed it prudent not to continue this initiative,” Weeks said. “KershawHealth, nonetheless, remains committed to assisting current and future surgeons in providing this vital service to the community.”

KershawHealth administrators first broached the idea of creating the surgical practice in July 2011. At the time, the agreement with Gill would have not only had KershawHealth employing him, but purchasing his office for $1 million. Gill is currently employed by Sentinel Health Partners.

“We are certainly glad that Dr. Ed Gill will remain in the community and continue to work with Sentinel Health Partners. He has always been a very involved and productive member of the Sentinel family,” Sentinel CEO Dr. Jack F. Scheuer Jr. said. “I want to emphasize how lucky (KershawHealth) is to have two such well-trained and excellent surgeons as doctors Gill and Christenberry. I certainly hope they have a long tenure here and that the hospital will continue to support them in every way.”

Earlier this year, at the board’s January meeting, on a split 5-3-1 vote, it reauthorized Weeks to negotiate the agreements but would treat the purchase of Gill’s office as a separate matter. In a press release issued after the January board meeting, KershawHealth officials said they would immediately begin recruiting a third surgeon to join the proposed practice. In that release, Weeks was quoted as saying forming the two-physician practice was “essential to ensure the continuation of strong general services for our community.” He also said at the time that it would be easier to recruit another surgeon if Gill and Christenberry were already working together.

A five-year community needs study commissioned by the healthcare organization concluded that there was a need for an additional general surgeon in Kershaw County, especially since one left in 2011.

Weeks said later Thursday that KershawHealth is still committed to recruiting a third general surgeon in order to be consistent with the medical staff development plan that grew out of the needs study.

In the meantime, Weeks used part of his report to the board at its regular meeting -- held Tuesday due to the Memorial Day holiday -- to announce that a radiologist from Ocala, Fla., will join Camden Radiology Associates as part of a physician recruitment effort by KershawHealth. The radiologist, whose name is not yet able to be released, is scheduled to join the practice beginning August 1

KershawHealth President and CEO Donnie Weeks made the announcement during the KershawHealth Board of Trustees meeting Monday.

“This radiologist is a interventional radiologist,” Weeks said of the new recruit from Ocala, Fla. “He has associate training that brings additional services to KershawHealth, which is a really good thing.”

Weeks also said KershawHealth has received a letter of intent from an internal medicine specialist who is a candidate to become the healthcare organization’s hospitalist director. Hospitalists are physicians employed by hospitals to work with inpatients.

An OB/GYN has also signed a letter of intent with KershawHealth, Weeks said. In addition, he said two other OB/GYN physicians have been interviewed.

“These interviews are very early in the recruitment process,” he said.

Weeks said two pain medicine physicians expressed an interest in practicing in Kershaw County, and that there was some activity surrounding a gastroenterologist candidate who decided to practice elsewhere. He said there has been other activity with other physicians as well, but that the ones he mentioned were the only candidates to actually visit KershawHealth.

During his report to the board Monday, Weeks also discussed KershawHealth’s recent centennial celebration and reported on the fact that the S.C. Senate did not approve an expansion of Medicaid in the state’s upcoming fiscal year budget.

“So, in essence, for this budget year, it appears to be a dead issue,” Weeks said, “but it’s so critically important to hospitals, it’s going to be in front of the legislature and the governor for this coming year. It’s a high priority for the South Carolina Hospital Association. It’s very significant to KershawHealth specifically. It amounts to approximately $27 million in additional Medicaid reimbursements over a seven-year period of time, which is certainly very critical to the financial well-being of our organization.”

In March, the majority of the board adopted a resolution calling for the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.

Monday, the board also touched on touched on strategic planning. Trustee Don Witham, who chairs the board’s strategic planning committee, said KershawHealth Vice President and COO/CFO Mike Bunch has provided the committee with valuable data. That data, Witham said, covers such topics as space utilization, financial projections and volumes in certain areas of the hospital. He said that data will be used to assist the committee in drafting a strategic plan.

“We’re going to start next month … and get something hammered out” for the near future, Witham said.

Trustee Derial Ogburn asked, in terms of strategic planning, what the plans are for the former Burndale Shopping Center. KershawHealth purchased the property in 2008 for nearly $2 million with the intention of spending up to another $10 million to turn it into an outpatient/urgent care center.

Weeks said that its purpose is very similar to what was built at the Elgin Outpatient/Urgent Care Center off I-20. He said that both projects were slated for approximately the same time period but for economic reasons decided to focus on Elgin first.

“That was the original plan … (but) because of the overall economy, we held off with that building,” Weeks said. “The strategic plan -- part of what Mr. Witham mentioned -- there will be consideration of what we will do with that building going forward on that site. It’s just one site, we have other sites that will also be considered. There’s been no decision to do anything different with it than what we originally planned.”

In other business:

• Trustee Dr. Tallulah Holmstrom, who chairs the Board Quality Oversight Committee, reported on first quarter 2013 core measure successes, including the fact that 99 percent of people eligible to receive flu shots were assessed and dealt with appropriately. Holmstrom said that figure was the best it has ever been at KershawHealth. For the entire 2012-13 flu season, 94.3 percent of eligible persons were assessed and assisted. Other core measures -- covering a range of items from (when appropriate) dispensing aspirin at a patient’s arrival to providing discharge instructions for heart failure patients -- all saw significant improvement, including a number at 100 percent success, during the quarter.

• Trustees unanimously passed a new public comment policy, modeled after that used by the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees.

• Trustee Steve Holliday Jr. said that a committee he is heading has taken a “long look” at the board’s by-laws as well as a version of Robert’s Rules of Order. Holliday said the group will meet again soon and hoped to bring back a draft within 60 days.

• Chairman Paul Napper reported that the board’s next retreat may focus on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and hoped to have S.C. Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers on hand to educate trustees on the S.C. FOIA.

• Trustee Karen Eckford reported that she and other trustees recently delivered dessert to different departments within the hospital as part of an effort to make the board more visible to KershawHealth employees. Holmstrom asked if this could also be done with night shift employees as well.

• The board spent nearly three hours in executive session discussing the now defunct proposal to form the general surgery practice. It also discussed a contractual matter regarding an OB/GYN; two legal updates; and a personal matter involving the administration. The only vote during the executive session was on a medical staff report, ratifying provisional emergency medical privileges to four physicians with Carolina Care; moving four other physicians from provisional active to active status; and amending changes to KershawHealth’s clinical privileges in emergency/urgent care medicine. The amendment allows emergency/urgent care physician candidates who are in at least their third year of residency training to be considered for emergency medicine privileges. However, all such candidates must at all times be under the supervision of a emergency medicine physician who not only already has privileges at KershawHealth, but who is physically in the hospital.

The medical staff report also noted that Nicholas Pennings, DO, resigned May 9 to teach at Campbell University in North Carolina.



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