UnityPoint Health in FD closes its orthopedics clinic

UnityPoint Health Clinic announced the closure of its orthopedics clinic in Fort Dodge Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement issued Wednesday, UnityPoint Health officials did not specify when the clinic will close or if it had closed already.

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

According to the statement issued by UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, Dr. James Mueller was the only orthopedic surgeon there for almost a year.

Mueller joined UnityPoint Health Clinic in June 2017.

“During this time it has become evident that we are unable to provide full orthopedic care to our patients and community,” the statement reads.

Jodi Rickleffs, regional vice president clinic operations, added, “We are committed to providing the best patient experience with high quality outcomes and with only one orthopedic surgeon, we are not able to consistently care for orthopedic patients.”

According to the statement, UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge has secured an agreement with UnityPoint Health — Des Moines and Des Moines Orthopedic Surgeons for individuals needing care.

It’s not yet clear if surgeons will come to Fort Dodge or if patients will need to be treated in Des Moines or another hospital.

UnityPoint Clinic Orthopedics — Fort Dodge patients are to receive a formal letter with more information concerning their care.

Orthopedic surgeons from Des Moines were needed to care for Fort Dodge area patients once before.

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.

Ultimately, 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 on 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.”