Porter Medical Center says it will close one doctors’ office

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center officials on Wednesday promised to lead the organization out of its current period of financial challenges and broken morale, but served notice that the entire hospital community would in the meantime experience some short-term pain.
PMC’s interim CEO, Dr. Fred Kniffin, provided a vivid preview of that pain during a jam-packed annual meeting held in Middlebury College’s Bicentennial Hall, announcing the closing of the Porter Internal Medicine physicians practice.
The practice is closing, he said, due to the resignation of Dr. Naomi Hodde. Kniffin acknowledged Hodde has elected to leave in wake of recent upheaval at Porter, which has included nursing staff layoffs and the hasty rollout of a new compensation structure for Porter providers.
Those changes were overseen by former Porter Medical Center President and CEO Lynn Boggs, who resigned suddenly on March 18.
Kniffin — who said he does not plan to be a candidate for the medical center’s top job — said Hodde will be leaving Porter Internal Medicine. Her partner in the business, Dr. Brad Armstrong, will be reassigned.
Plans call for the Porter Ear, Nose and Throat practice to relocate into the Porter Internal Medicine office at 116 Porter Drive.
“The bad news is, there will be some turbulence,” Kniffin said of some stormy months to come during what he believes will ultimately be a solid rebound for PMC. “We are going to lose some physicians; there’s no doubt about it.”
During a question-and-answer period moderated by former Gov. Jim Douglas, Kniffin also acknowledged that PMC could “not walk back” on February’s layoffs affecting 17 positions (mostly nurses assigned to the 12 PMC practices), nor the reduction in benefits for part-time workers.
“You have to balance what’s best for the organization,” Kniffin said, alluding to financial troubles that have resulted in PMC currently maintaining 2.2 months of cash on hand — a figure substantially below the average cash reserves held by most other Vermont hospitals.
“We need to improve our financial performance,” he said.
But Kniffin pledged to reach out to PMC physicians, nurses, staff and the community at large to rekindle a more cooperative relationship and take the organization forward — albeit at a more deliberate pace.
“This is not going to be a quick fix,” Kniffin said.
“We are going to break this down into bites we can chew and digest.”
The Independent will offer an expansive report on the PMC annual meeting in the Monday, April 4, issue.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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