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News Physicians resign from MedWest hospitals

Management differences top list of grievances.

During a meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners, Dr. Bob Adams, chief hospitalist at MedWest-Harris announced he was resigning after 36 years with the hospital. Dr. Adams has already accepted a position at Franklin’s Angel Medical Center, where he is expected to begin work on July 1.

Adams was not alone in his protest of the West- Care Health System and was joined by several other MedWest-Jackson physicians including, Waverly Green, Theresa Green, Bill Sims and Bill Ralston, and MedWest-Swain physicians Thomas Bunnow, Jennifer Bunnow and Colin Goggin, who decided to resign over individual differences with MedWest and Carolinas Healthcare management. Adams informed commissioners that because of the lack of management, he believes there are other employees that may soon announce their resignation from the hospitals.

According to Adams, not only is he resigning from his post after nearly four decades, he believes that because of the lack of financial sustainability of the hospital, it should be entirely absorbed by Asheville-based Mission Hospitals.

“Do not let our hospital close or be bought because of rumors you heard about problems over the past two years; do not let our hospital close from lack of support from the community,” said Adams. “MedWest has failed financially and operationally. That it has failed financially is obvious.”

Adams told commissioners that his anger and frustration began building after MedWest was formed in January 2010 by the affiliation of West- Care (Harris and Swain hospitals) and Haywood Regional Medical Center coming under the management of Carolinas. In his statement to commissioners he said that he believed the merger failed and officials need to intervene in order to save any hope of viability of the hospital because “Carolinas is not an acceptable partner,” he said.

“At this critical time, the community needs to be involved and to communicate its preferences directly to Carolinas and the WestCare and MedWest boards,” he said.

According to Adams, WestCare faces detrimental financial consequences because its affiliation with MedWest and has countless operational issues that need to be addressed immediately. After Dr. Adams approached the commissioners, John Young, Group Vice-President, Western Division, Carolinas HealthCare System released a statement in disagreement of Adams’ accusations and informed the public they plan to continue working to best serve the residents of Western North Carolina.

“It has been and always will be the intent of Carolinas HealthCare System to build a strong, viable healthcare network in our mountain communities, and to do so in a way that places our patients as the first and most important order of business,” read the statement. “We will continue to focus on the core mission of our affiliated institutions: to provide excellent care and compassion for patients at all our hospitals and medical practices in the region.”

“Carolinas HealthCare System does not agree with many of the assertions and opinions made by a local physician in his presentation to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. Carolinas HealthCare System remains committed to working with small rural hospitals to provide local access to quality care while also operating within a challenging business environment.” said Young in his statement.

Steve Heatherly of MedWest-Harris also sent a memo to the Swain staff on April 16 in regards to Adams’ accusations. According to Heatherly’s memo, he encouraged staff members to focus on providing care to the patients.

“We have all been aware that a group of physicians, led by Dr. Adams, has been in dialogue since last summer with the WestCare Board and CHS regarding their concerns about management personnel, the management structure, CHS as an affiliation partner, and MedWest as a concept. This fact was acknowledged in the employee forums that we conducted in February. While I find it regrettable that Dr. Adams and others have decided to leave our organization, the task at hand ... remains the same. We must focus on meeting the needs of every single patient that we have the honor of serving with the goal of attracting more patients, turning market share, and placing Harris and Swain on solid financial footing.”

Heatherly’s memo also disagreed with Adams in regards to future stability of the organization and assured employees the hospital was in no danger of closing down. “I had the pleasure to meet with a group of medical staff leaders last Thursday evening to focus on the strategy for Harris and Swain going forward,” said Heatherly. “We spent a fair amount of time discussing the future of our hospitals in the context of MedWest and CHS.”

Chuck Wooten, Jackson County’s Manager, said he believes the community and County Commissioners will continue to support the hospital. “I think it’s fair to say that Jackson County wants to do whatever we can to support our hospital and our doctors,” he said. “ A strong and vibrant medical community is an essential component of every community. I’m confident our citizens will continue to utilize the hospital and support our doctors by seeking them out for their medical care.”





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