Medical Center Moment - February 2019

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I am extremely disappointed with the recent coverage by the Jefferson Herald and the Carroll Daily Times Herald of the medical center’s decision to hire Dr. Josh Smith as a full-time surgeon, and I feel I must respond.  I felt the coverage was an unnecessary attack on a surgeon who has been practicing in the area for 20 years. 

Last week, both papers ran revisions of 2016 stories, focusing on the past and nearly ignoring the present.  In 2016, Dr. Smith received sanctions from the Iowa Board of Medicine, which involved nine cases over the course of five years.  At that time, the Iowa Board of Medicine’s settlement with Dr. Smith was to “pay a $5,000 fine, undergo retraining and serve five years of state supervised probation.”  The sanctions and probation period cannot be denied, but it would seem fair that today, three years later, the story did not need to be sensationalized with headlines like “surgeon on probation” or “surgeon has troubled past.”  Making the focus on the past, without context to the present, is a disservice to the public.

In a conversation I had last week with Doug Burns, vice president for news at the Carroll Daily Times Herald, he defended their coverage and I stood by my indignation.  I think the reporting should have better included updated information about Dr. Smith’s practice today.  After all, his practice since the 2016 story has been uninterrupted in Carroll, Jefferson and surrounding communities.  He has been and is complying with the Iowa Board of Medicine.  Equally important is the overall change in surgical coverage in the area, which precipitated our hire of Dr. Smith.  

I want to directly address our decision to hire Dr. Smith, so the public can better appreciate our decision and respect the work that Dr. Smith has been doing in our communities for the last 20 years.

Dr. Smith has had a successful practice at Western Iowa Surgery – along with surgeons Dr. Marc Miller and Dr. Ronald Cheney – since 1999, and has been credentialed at our medical center since 2002.  Dr. Smith estimates that over the past 20 years, he has performed 20,000 procedures.  Those performed here at the medical center have been without incident.  

In late summer of 2018, Western Iowa Surgery underwent some provider transition decisions.  Dr. Miller announced he was going to move to the Des Moines area and practice at Iowa Lutheran Hospital and Dr. Cheney announced his 2019 retirement plans.  Dr. Smith opted to seek employment at one facility, rather than re-staff Western Iowa Surgery.

Many factors go into hiring a physician.  First, successful credentialing – an arduous process of background checks, reference checks and a national practitioner data bank review.  We review records through peer and chart reviews.  We look at working relationships with staff and interaction with patients.  Dr. Smith, because of his surgical history in the area and at this facility, quickly became a top candidate for us.  He fit into our need for a general surgeon, he was well-liked by patients and peers and he has a good working relationship with our surgery staff.  In fact, the confidence and trust our surgery staff has in Dr. Smith was evident with their excitement at the announcement of his hire.

Dr. Smith has taken full responsibility for his past.  He continues to be licensed and committed to care for patients.  Dr. Smith was honest in his statement to the press, which was somewhat lost at the end of their stories.  He said, “It has been three years since the actions from the board.  I have fully complied with all board recommendations and remain in good standing.  I have maintained a successful practice in Carroll throughout this time and look forward to continuing care for patients at my new location.”

I strongly believe that a good staff working with a good surgeon will have good outcomes.  Greene County Medical Center prides itself in strong quality control audits, peer reviews and credentialing reviews – which have been positive for Dr. Smith.  I am confident Dr. Smith, our surgery staff and the medical center create an environment where patients are given quality, compassionate care.  Our values consist of patient-centered care, respect, integrity, dedication and empathy.  All of us at the medical center live these values every day, and I know Dr. Smith will, too.

There are exciting changes coming to the medical center in 2019 – the new Greene County Family Medicine Clinic and the hiring of Dr. Laurie Connolly to this clinic; the hiring of a full-time pediatrician.  And having Dr. Smith on campus. All of these things add up to more services and more access for the communities we serve.   We are committed to doing this with the highest standards and the best care. 

Always Here, Always Caring,
Carl Behne, CEO