published Friday, February 28th, 2014

Erlanger files second suit against Hutcheson

The Erlanger Baroness campus.
The Erlanger Baroness campus.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Erlanger's chest center named in memory of physician

A dozen white-coated Erlanger emergency room physicians stood before Erlanger's board Thursday as hospital officials voted to name the hospital's chest pain center in honor of emergency physician Dr. Francis Fesmire, 54, who died suddenly last month.

"Dr. Fesmire truly impacted people's lives from coast-to-coast with his research," said Erlanger Chief Medical Officer and emergency physician Dr. James Creel. "We all miss him."

In the resolution, Fesmire was lauded as "a nationally-recognized expert" in the study of heart attacks, and provided 23 years' worth of "outstanding clinical and academic service for and on behalf the citizens of Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, North Alabama and Western North Carolina as an emergency physician."

Fesmire developed clinical guidelines on the standard of care in the treatment of patients suffering from suspected heart attacks, and created what was dubbed the "Erlanger Chest Pain Protocol" to rule out heart attacks in patients -- guidelines that have since been adopted by many medical institutions, Erlanger officials said.

Fesmire developed Erlanger's chest pain center and served as its medical director for many years until his death.

Erlanger Health System has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Hutcheson Medical Center, on the heels of a $550,000 lawsuit Erlanger filed against the Fort Oglethorpe hospital last month, Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel said.

"These are [Erlanger's] assets. We have to follow through with protecting them, and we have to hold our partners accountable that they follow through with what they agreed to," Spiegel said after Erlanger's board meeting Thursday.

Erlanger has also filed the suit against the Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties -- the governing body over Hutcheson.

Though Walker and Catoosa counties were included in the initial $550,000 suit, the counties were not named in the latest litigation, said Erlanger's chief legal officer, Jeff Woodard,

The second lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Rome, Ga., was not available Thursday evening.

In the lawsuits, Erlanger seeks repayment for the $20.5 million it originally lent Hutcheson when the two hospitals entered a management agreement in 2011. The agreement ended last year after a leasing arrangement between the two hospitals fell apart.

The loans were to be repaid Dec. 1, after the agreement ended -- but have not been, the first lawsuit alleged.

After the first lawsuit, both parties had said they were seeking resolution through negotiations.

But that didn't stop both hospitals from publicly trading blows.

Attorney and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who is representing Hutcheson, has sought to turn the tables on Erlanger, claiming that it is Erlanger that owes the North Georgia hospital at least $73 million in damages sustained during the management agreement.

Erlanger has called the letter "silly, ludicrous and absurd," stating that its management kept the Hutcheson in business and even helped the hospital recover from a bleak financial outlook.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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