Physicians to CHS: Treat Lutheran Health Network as more than a 'revenue generator'

Leadership at Lutheran Health Network in Fort Wayne, Ind., and its parent company Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems need to show they are committed to LHN's clinicians and regain the community's trust, a group of physician advocates wrote in a recent op-ed in The Journal Gazette

CHS and LHN used to have a good working relationship, but the physicians claim that changed when CHS' debt load increased. "An austerity program was introduced at Lutheran Health — staff cuts and deferred maintenance, for example — designed to bail out CHS' bad decisions," wrote William Cast, MD, Matthew Sprunger, MD and J. Philip Tyndall, MD. The three physicians are founders of Northeast Indiana Citizens for Healthcare Excellence, a group focused on holding CHS accountable. 

Tensions have flared between physicians in northeast Indiana and CHS since May, when CHS rejected a buyout offer from a group of LHN physicians. Shortly after CHS rejected the physician group's takeover bid, the hospital operator fired two LHN executives and several other LHN executives and board members stepped down from their positions.

LHN appointed Mike Poore regional president and CEO in August. The physicians claim the approach at LHN under Mr. Poore's leadership is "for profit, not for you." Mr. Poore "continues to allow relentless cost-cutting, staff reductions and deferred maintenance, as mandated by CHS," the physicians wrote. 

The physicians say CHS and LHN need to work together again. "It is time for Lutheran Health to be treated as a partner, not merely a revenue generator," they wrote. "It is time for Community Health Systems and Lutheran Health Network to regain the community's trust. Time, however, is running out."

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