Fort Meets with Lockridge - Outcome Appears Unchanged

NEWPORT, VT - Local oncologist Dr. Leslie Lockridge met with hospital officials Monday morning, but the outcome was not promising, Lockridge said.North Country Hospital CEO Claudio Fort told Lockridge on Jan. 5 that his position at the hospital was ending. The plan is for two visiting doctors from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire to travel up twice a week to see patients and for the hospital to hire a nurse practitioner to run the day-to-day operations at the clinic in Newport. The move would save the hospital $100,000 a year, Fort said.Lockridge met with Fort and the chairperson of the board of trustees, Kathryn Austin, at Lockridge’s request Monday. Lockridge said he had hoped and asked for the full board, but they were not there.Lockridge, in an interview Monday afternoon, said that he offered to cut back his days to three days a week to add to the coverage provided from Dartmouth and offered to be available locally. He said the move was rejected and he was told by Fort that his offer did not fit into the hospital's plan.Lockridge also made attempts to negotiate working independently in the hospital, but have the hospital provide certain things such as a secretary and pay for malpractice insurance, which is high in his field, he said. Lockridge said the response from Fort was not encouraging. Lockridge said that the terms of his severance package remain under negotiations.Lockridge is considering operating a private practice but it is a very complicated process, he said. Lockridge said that he loves the community and the people and wants to stay.Fort issued the following statement when asked to comment on the meeting with Lockridge: "I can confirm that Board Chair Kathy Austin and I met with Dr. Lockridge today, and I can also tell you that the tone of that meeting was cordial and professional. It is against the hospital's policy, however, to discuss personnel matters with outside parties. Our priority continues to be providing a stronger program that advances the oncology care North Country Hospital provides to the communities we serve, and we are committed to working with Dr. Lockridge and Dartmouth-Hitchcock in the weeks ahead to assist our patients and make this transition as easy for them as possible."