Dr. Jock Cobb of the North Hills Family Medical Center learned in mid-September that St. Vincent Health would not renew his clinic's lease of a building at 7709 Hwy. 107 and that it would have to move by Oct. 31.
Cobb, whose office manager says was director of St. Vincent North medical center for 12 years until the clinic lease was terminated Oct. 31 wrote his patients of the St. Vincent's decision and the letter was provided to the Arkansas Times over the weekend. The clinic is now located at 4509 E. McCain Blvd.
St. Vincent CEO/president Peter Banko said last week that the hospital is cutting its budget by $12 million, by attrition, layoffs and other savings. He said the hospital might choose to end its affiliation with doctors whose clinics were not productive.
Cobb said in the letter that St. Vincent had "other uses for the clinic building and that the decision was not negotiable, despite Cobb's plea that it would be hard to notify its thousands of patients and relocate its staff in such a short time, adding:
"Although this decision by St. Vincent might be legal, it is certainly immoral and unethical to fail to give us time to make the necessary arrangements to be able to provide facilities for patients to receive the medical care they deserve. This action is indeed below the dignity and caring of the St. Vincent we once knew."
Cobb's clinic was not affiliated with St. Vincent.
But Cobb, in the letter, said he was saddened "at how we were treated after 12 years of association with St. Vincent as their Medical Director and a major supporter who helped take the concept of a hospital presence in Sherwood to a reality.
I asked Margaret Dedman, spokesman for St. Vincent, what plans the hospital had for the clinic office, whether the decision not to renew the lease was part of St. Vincent's cost-cutting measures and who the new medical director for St. Vincent North Medical Center was. Will update when I have answers.
I also hope to ask Chancellor Dan Rahn of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences today if entering into a joint operating agreement with a hospital that's cutting back its budget is tantamount to using tax dollars to support a private institution. He'll say UAMS is only exploring such an association. (Update: That's what he said, and that he will act in the best interests of UAMS.)