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Community Commentary: Porter and Primary Care

By Dr. Fred Kniffin, Interim President and CEO

At our recent Porter Medical Center Annual Meeting I announced that I had learned that morning that Porter Internal Medicine would be closing soon. Since then, I have received numerous calls and letters from community members who are deeply concerned by the closing of this practice and about the future of adult primary care access in Addison County. I appreciated that feedback, and I would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns.

First, please know that I appreciate the unique nature of the physician-patient relationship. If your physician is leaving our community, I understand how difficult that is. We are fortunate in this community to have great healthcare providers. Access to high quality primary care is essential to us all.

When I started at Porter in 1990, we had four internal medicine physicians: Dr. Ted Collier, Dr. Robert LaFiandra, Dr. Dave Henderson and Dr. Alan Covey. They were core members of our medical staff. I admired their commitment to their patients. I respected their skills and wisdom. They were colleagues and mentors for me as a young physician.

I was around when this first group of internists retired, and I know how hard those retirements can be when a generation of our community has such a deep connection with these doctors. What I also learned is how difficult it can be to recruit high quality primary care internal medicine physicians.

One year ago, we had eight providers in our community practicing internal medicine. Today we have six, soon to be four. For those upset by the departure of these valuable providers, I fully understand and acknowledge your anger. We are a diminished community for this loss.

Which brings us to today…..

I believe in Internal Medicine. I am an Internist by training. I believe a healthy department of Internal Medicine is essential for our hospital and for the health of our community. But there is no easy or short-term fix. Recruiting new, highly skilled physicians to locate and practice here will take time. As the new leader of Porter Medical Center, I plan to work with my board, medical staff and administrative colleagues to take a comprehensive look at where we are and develop a solid plan for addressing the primary care needs of our community. It will be hard work, but it is urgent and necessary work, and we will do it together.

In summary, I understand how unsettling these changes have been for our community. Our network of physicians, both primary and specialty care, is one of the great assets of our community. Porter’s Mission is to improve the health of our community, and a strong provider network is essential to this mission. Please know I recognize the value of our provider network, and that I will be working hard in the weeks and months ahead to address this extraordinarily important issue.