Doctor wants focus back on practice

By Rachel Davis
http://www.gctelegram.com

Physician George Matthews, former owner of the Women’s Clinic L.L.P., said it’s time to stop running a business and focus on what he loves to do — practice obstetrics and gynecology.

Matthews, along with clinic physician and partner Ben Williams, approached Scott Taylor, president and CEO of St. Catherine Hospital, a few months ago about purchasing the clinic. Taylor announced the purchase on Monday.

Taylor said Matthews informed him that Williams would be leaving Garden City sometime this summer for Utah and that he could not run the clinic by himself.

Matthews, one of the founding partners of the clinic, established the business in 1987. The clinic currently employs 16 staff members and two partners. It also has about 10,000 active patients who travel from eastern Colorado, northern Kansas, southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles for services, said Jackie Miller, practice administrator for the clinic.

The decision comes despite past differences between the hospital and the clinic, which arose in 2006 with the clinic threatening to close its practice. Matthews said that is in the past and he wants to move forward. Physicians at the Women’s Clinic took issue with what they believed were low standards at St. Catherine Hospital for family practitioners in regards to their qualificatins for handling high-risk obstetrical patients. High-risk procedures include Cesarean sections, multiple births, breech deliveries, and babies born extremely premature. Clinic physicians later decided to keep their practice open.

Matthews said the hospital’s ownership of the clinic will provide a continuum of high-quality care of women’s services in Finney County and surrounding communities.

“I don’t feel like running a business anymore,” Matthews said. “I don’t want to be a businessman. I just want to practice medicine.”

Garden City resident Christina Britton said this morning that the purchase will help the community because it will streamline services.

Britton, who was a patient of Dr. Tom Matthews, another founding partner of the clinic, said the hospital’s ownership means uniformity and better care.

“When the doctors run the business, they focus more on the money aspects and less on patient care,” she said. “When the hospital runs it, it frees the doctors up to focus on their patients’ needs.”

But Garden City resident Julie Christner disagrees, saying she has doubts about the hospital’s ability to effectively run its own business, much less the Women’s Clinic.

“I think you do better when you are your own owner of your own business,” Christner said.

She also said she believes the hospital’s purchase of the clinic will limit patients’ choices, particularly in the area of elective sterilization such as tubal ligations.

A tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, tied or cut. Under the physicians’ ownership, the clinic offered the service.

Kevin Gallagher, executive director of mission and ministry at the hospital, said it is the hospital’s policy not to perform elective sterilization. He said tubal ligations may be performed on a medical emergency basis only.

That’s a concern for Christner.

“Sometimes permanent birth control is necessary,” she said. “I don’t think the hospital will do it if it’s not a medical emergency.”

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