Park City Health South office to close | ParkRecord.com

Park City Health South office to close

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

Park City’s only surgery center, a HealthSouth office near Prospector Square, will close it’s doors Aug. 11.

HealthSouth corporate representatives told the local staff the center would be closing in a meeting held July 12, giving the staff 30 days to find new jobs.

Although members of the local staff declined comment, HealthSouth Spokesperson Kristi Gilmore said the employees, roughly estimated at 20, will receive severance pay and assistance in finding new jobs in the medical community.

"The center staff worked diligently over the past few years to grow in a very challenging local healthcare community and to provide a needed service to the residents and visitors of Park City," she said. "Last fall, the center sold additional shares of the center to local physicians in a re-syndication process designed to bring additional business to the center, but the results achieved through these efforts did not provide the center with the volume necessary to keep the center open."

Many doctors who regularly use the facility, as well as others in the community, purchased shares of the center for $10,000 each, some buying one, some several, said partner Renato Saltz, a plastic surgeon who operates at the center at least twice a week.

Saltz and partner/office Medical Director Thomas Meuleman both said they were asked by HealthSouth corporate representatives to recruit new partners for the center up until May, but Gilmore said they stopped recruiting and selling nearly seven months before. Meuleman also said he had been told by HealthSouth representatives that the decision to close the facility had been made six weeks earlier, but Gilmore said the decision was made only days before the announcement.

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"They must have been thinking about closing even while offering partnerships," Meuleman said. "I can’t conclude anything else. Everyone who was investing money just loses it. We feel like we’ve been scammed.

"It was presented as a partnership and it never functioned as such. It seemed like a one-way scam. HealthSouth has had a lot of financial and legal problems nationally, and it just left a sour taste in our mouths."

Despite the sour taste, Meuleman and many of the other doctors who currently use the facility will perform the procedures at a HealthSouth office in Salt Lake City.

"It was a great thing for the patients in Park City because it’s quieter and more personal for them when compared to a larger facility," he said. "I thought we were providing a good service to the people, but the corporate people aren’t local. The center in Salt Lake certainly doesn’t have the feel that the Park City office has. This isn’t a second-rate facility. This is where the best athlete in the world wanted to be operated on."

Meuleman referred to the fact that golfer Tiger Woods requested to have knee surgery at the facility just a few years ago. Actress Raquel Welch recently did the same when she needed an operation as well, he said.

"We had the top nurses in the state working there, as well as the top anesthesiologist in the area and some of the best doctors, too," Saltz said. "If you walked into that office you would get some of the best service available.

"I think Park City is a community that should be able to offer the services of a surgery center to its locals and visitors. It’s a big loss for Park City. A lot of people are going to be out of jobs and a lot of patients are not going to have a place for their care."

The two closest options for a surgery center are in Heber City and in Salt Lake. Most of the doctors are choosing Salt Lake until Intermountain Health Care finishes its hospital that the company is planning to build in Park City. IHC has not released a timeline for the hospital, however, meaning it could take one year or it could take 10.

"Here comes IHC with all this marketing and advertising to build a hospital here and meanwhile they can’t keep a two-room operating center open," Saltz said "It’s something for this community to think about."

Stephanie Singer, an OB-GYN who operates at the center and runs her office in the same building, said she was surprised and saddened at the announcement of the closing.

"I’m tremendously disappointed," she said. "I love the staff up there and my patients love the staff up there, but HealthSouth is downsizing. What I was told is that they’re closing down the least profitable surgical centers around the country. It’s hard just to break even at a surgical center, and I guess they just didn’t see the growth that others here in Park City have seen."

Singer, who said she was lucky she passed on the opportunity to become a partner at the center, said it was the most surprising because of the recent success the center has seen and that the IHC hospital is likely years down the road.

"Their volume has increased over the last 6 to 12 months, and so we’re all surprised that it’s happened," she said. "It doesn’t make sense that they would close this facility because of the IHC hospital, either, when that hospital is probably 10 years down the road. That just doesn’t make sense."

Saltz feels the same way.

"It’s very frustrating because I’ve had a clinic in Park City for over 10 years and I feel like a part of the community," he said. "But what gets me it that you have a surgery center that was doing well and that was growing, and then to just give the staff a month’s notice before shutting down is just sad. It’s just corporate America."

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