Medical center’s Fort Dodge orthopedics clinic closed Wednesday

Medical center’s Fort Dodge orthopedics clinic closed Wednesday

Patients will no longer be able to receive care at UnityPoint Health Clinic Orthopedics — Fort Dodge, and that may impact local athletic training as well.

The clinic closed on Wednesday, the same day the hospital made the announcement, according to Alyssa Stanek, UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge marketing communications specialist.

The medical specialty of orthopedics deals with the correction of bones or muscles.

Five employees will be impacted by the clinic’s closure.

“Human Resources is working closely with each individual impacted throughout this transition,” Stanek said.

Dr. James Mueller, who joined the Fort Dodge clinic in June 2017, was the only orthopedic surgeon there for almost a year.

The clinic cited difficulty in recruiting physicians specializing in orthopedics as a reason for the closure.

“Despite our extensive recruitment efforts, we have not been able to secure additional orthopedic surgeons at this time,” Stanek said.

The closure of the clinic could impact the athletic training services provided to the Fort Dodge Community School District.

Bre Drees currently serves the high school as an athletic trainer. She is employed by UnityPoint Health for that position.

“The closing of the UnityPoint Orthopedics clinic is new news to us,” Rob Hughes, FDCSD assistant superintendent, said Thursday. “Ms. Drees is a valuable member of both our teaching and athletic staff. We are evaluating what the change means for us in regards to her services as an athletic trainer for the district and looking for a reasonable solution to continue to provide athletic training services to our student athletes.”

Prior to Mueller, the UnityPoint clinic had four orthopedic surgeons: Dr. Jeffrey Luna, Dr. P. Prasad Purudappa, Dr. Benjamin Tuy and Dr. Richard Bergstrom.

According to Stanek, Luna and Purudappa left the clinic to enter medical programs which would allow them to become board eligible. Bergstrom retired and Tuy relocated to be closer to family, she said.

Within the past 15 years, the hospital had a disagreement with past orthopedic surgeons.

In December 2005, the hospital’s board of directors accepted the resignations of Dr. Emile C. Li, Dr. C. Mark Race, Dr. Samir Wahby and Dr. James D. Wolff, the four physicians who at that time comprised Fort Dodge-based Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists.

According to Messenger records, the resignations were the result of a dispute between those physicians and the hospital regarding the number of days per month each of the orthopedists would have been required to be on call to provide emergency care.

UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center’s staff bylaws require physicians in each specialty to cooperate with each other, and the hospital, to provide on-call coverage 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

That bylaw has not changed, Stanek reported.

The four orthopedists advised the hospital they were no longer willing or able to meet that obligation.

As a result, the hospital was left with several days each month during which no orthopedist was willing to be on call. This resulted in some patients who arrived at the hospital’s emergency department being transferred to other hospitals because no local orthopedist had agreed to be on call.

Hospital officials at that time cited difficulty in recruiting and retaining orthopedic surgeons.

In the months that followed, surgeons from the Des Moines-based Iowa Orthopaedic Center provided care in Fort Dodge.

In February 2018, Mike Dewerff, UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge president and chief executive officer at the time, said recruiting physicians in orthopedics was “one area of emphasis.”

Stanek said on Thursday that UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge has secured an agreement with UnityPoint Health — Des Moines and Des Moines Orthopedic Surgeons for individuals needing care.

She said patients would need to travel to one of their clinics located in Ankeny, West Des Moines or Des Moines.

“DMOS has an extensive number of orthopedic sub-specialists and are a very well-known and respected orthopedic group in the Midwest,” Stanek said. “With the new relationship with UnityPoint Health – Des Moines and DMOS, we have a consistent referral process to follow to provide orthopedic support to the community.”

Stanek said ultimately it’s up to the patients on where they choose to go for their orthopedic care.

“They can utilize DMOS, as well as, other orthopedic providers in the area,” Stanek said. “Trinity Emergency Services will still triage medical emergencies.”

UnityPoint staff will be available for the next couple of weeks for patients who have questions, Stanek said.