With the Fort Wayne hospital market in turmoil, Indiana University Health is planning to open a primary-care medical office in the city, and said it sees “additional health-care investments coming over time.”
The Indianapolis-based health system said Friday afternoon the new primary-care office will be staffed with up to 15 physicians and advanced practitioners. It did not provide an address or say how much it will spend to open the office.
It’s the latest push into Fort Wayne for IU Health, which does not have any hospitals, outpatient facilities or urgent care centers in northeast Indiana. Its closest hospitals are in Muncie and Hartford City, both more than 40 miles south.
But in recent months, IU Health has made plans to push into the region. In September, Riley Children’s Health said it would open a new pediatric specialty office in Fort Wayne early next year.
The move could be the first step in a frontal assault on the region’s dominant hospital player, Lutheran Health Network. The organization operates eight hospitals in the area, but has suffered a huge shake-up in recent months, with physician unrest and executive firings.
A group of Fort Wayne physicians had criticized Lutheran’s parent, Community Health System, based in Franklin, Tennessee, for what they described as failing to adequately invest in facilities and equipment, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel reported.
Lutheran Health Network is the most profitable division of Community Health System, which has been struggling in recent years. The for-profit system is not related to Indianapolis-based Community Health Network.
The Fort Wayne doctors formed a buyout group and offered to purchase the Lutheran Health Network division for $2.4 billion in May. But the parent company turned down the offer.
Three weeks later, the parent company fired Brian Bauer as CEO of Lutheran Health Network and head of its flagship hospital, Lutheran Hospital.
The physicians said Bauer had been put in an “untenable position” by advocating for staffing and facilities improvements, the News-Sentinel said. The doctors’ buyout group has since disbanded.
IU Health said it had engaged “former local physicians and leaders to build the IU Health programs in Fort Wayne."
IU Health did not comment on the Lutheran Hospital situation directly, but said it is responding “to the community’s growing need for primary care, to attract and retain quality physicians in the area and to serve its broader mission of helping make Indiana a healthier state.”