Lexington hospital seeks mediation with physician group

The Lexington Regional Health Center will seek mediation with the physician-owned Plum Creek Medical Group. Last night the Health Center Board of Directors directed CEO Leslie Marsh to reach out to the Medical Group with an offer to have a mediator work out issues between them. A professional, who assessed the organizational structure of the Health Center, suggested mediation as a way to heal the rift between the public hospital and the longtime local physician group.

A fissure between the two entities has been brewing for some time. In 2011, some staff members from Plum Creek Medical Group joined the Health Center to establish an Urgent Care clinic there. This past Spring, one of the Plum Creek physicians joined the Health Center to become it's chief medical officer. For many years, Plum Creek physicians staffed the Health Center's emergency room on an on-call basis. That ended this Spring when they were unable to reach an agreement. It led to the Health Center hiring a national medical company to staff the emergency room 24 hours a day with rotating physicians. It also essentially established having a physician on-campus at all times. Plum Creek physicians would no longer be able to assist in the emergency room unless they contracted with the national medical company. It's unknown if any of them have. Plum Creek physicians can still admit and see their patients in the Health Center. Patients admitted by the contracted emergency room physicians can still have their Plum Creek physician see them if they choose.

In public meetings and interviews, Health Center officials have expressed a need for more family physicians in the community. They cite research suggesting a community of Lexington's size should have 12 to 19 physicians. Plum Creek Medical Group currently has 6 physicians in it's clinic. The Health Center's new Chief Medical Officer has also begun seeing patients at the Health Center and just this fall, the Health Center broke ground on a new clinic building that will accommodate 4 family physicians.

Health Center leaders have also expressed concern with research showing that a significant number of area residents seek hospital care in other communities. While they understand more complicated health cases being handled at other hospitals, they say much of the same level of care is also provided at Lexington Regional Health Center at a comparable cost. They also point to patient surveys showing the same or greater level of satisfaction from the care they received in Lexington as compared with area hospitals.

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