Internal Medicine clinic to close in March

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center announced that it plans to close its Internal Medicine practice at the end of March 2013. A letter informing all HRRMC Internal Medicine patients of this change was mailed last week.

HRRMC’s decision to close the clinic was prompted by the news that both of its internal medicine physicians would be leaving the practice. Dr. John Ellis is retiring at the end of 2012, and Dr. Laura Donigan is relocating to Denver at the end of August 2013.

“The hospital’s administrative team determined it would be difficult to recruit new internal medicine physicians to the practice because the vast majority of internists either want to work only in a clinic or only in a hospital setting,” said hospital CEO Ken Leisher. “After careful consideration, we determined it was most important to have an internist in the hospital treating complex patients.”

The hospital does plan to recruit an internal medicine physician to the valley who will only work in the hospital’s inpatient setting, according to Leisher. This physician would be available to treat more complex inpatients and would be available to consult with the family medicine physicians.

Dr. Ellis will be covering for Dr. Donigan on a limited basis after the first of the year, but his last day seeing patients in the clinic is December 28. Physician Assistant Beth Pack will also be leaving Internal Medicine at the end of 2012. She is relocating to the HRRMC Buena Vista Health Center, 28374 CR 317, Buena Vista.

Patients of all three providers can be seen by Dr. Donigan at the Internal Medicine Clinic through the end of March 2013. From April through August 2013, Dr. Donigan will only be working at the hospital in the inpatient setting.

Current patients of HRRMC Internal Medicine will need to transfer their care to another primary care provider. Information about all four family medicine practices in Chaffee County is included with the letter to HRRMC’s Internal Medicine patients.

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

2 Responses to “Internal Medicine clinic to close in March”

  1. Fred Rollo

    In a phone conversation I had with the CEO of HRRMC on Monday, He stated that the hospital did not even TRY to recrute replacments for the current doctors. If you'll notice in the story in the Mountain Mail today, they DID manage to recrute an Orthopidic Surgon that specializes in total joint replacement! Now, think of the finacial impacts of that; more surgical hospital referrals, more beds filled ,surgical suite fees, Phisical Therapy,and on and on. So, the loss of the current Interanal Medicine Speialists (again I remind you,a G.P. for adults) was used as an EXCUSE. This decision was driven souly by the desire for MORE REVINUE! Also in that phone conversatioon with CEO Ken Leisher, he indicated that the clinic was generating enough revinue, that IF ONLY THESE DOCTORS WERE'T LEAVING, they "would have stuck with the clinic." I find the hospital's explination less than credable! I remind you that 1,300 letters were sent out telling current patients of the clinic essentially, TOUGH LUCK, we don't care what happens to you, we want more revinue, Patient welfare was not considered! Also, consider, if the CEO can point to an unpopular decision being pushed on the public successfully, and ALL THAT NEW REVINUE, then his contract pay negotiations could turn out quite well for him! I don't know if that was a consideration, but I know how executive pay negotiations work, and this won't hurt Mr. :Liesher when they come around!
    So to conclude, the hospital has made a decision that causes 1,300 patients to have to scramble to find a new point of service, get records transfered to two providers in Salida that provide Primary Health Care services, and hope that nothing bad happens! All this because the hospital put money before the needs of the patients!
    If you think this is wrong, let your voice be heard! Call the hospital,or write letters to the editor !
    The hospital district exists to serve the needs of the people of this valley, (read their Mission Statement). We pay TAXES so that they can put those needs first. They made a NET PROFIT of $ 3,175,468 last year. Remind these folks why they they are here!

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  2. Jay Moore

    Jay Moore November 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have no knowledge of the inside financials (meaning the clinic itself) or the politics of the hospital medical staff, board, or employees. So I do not know how/why this decision was made.

    However, this helps to underline an enormous difficulty, approaching American Medical Care. This is the absolute collapse of the number of physicians doing primary care. Primary care physicians are, compared to their surgical, and sub-speciality colleages, underpaid. They are well compensated compared to many in the general population, but not in the over all field of medicine. The decades long change in the cost medical school education, from a few thousand, to hundreds of thousands, has driven medical students to make the logical economic choise of going into the more lucrative speciality areas. This leads to ultimately, fewer practicing physicians in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Practice, Psychiatry. This does not mean no one will do the primary care, as two adjuncts to physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants, are professionals capable of providing routine health care. There will need to be major changes in patient expectations all over the country. How many of the primary care physicians in Chaffee County are nearing retirement? So, how can the hospital district deal with this one?


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