IU Health gears up for push into Fort Wayne

With the Fort Wayne hospital market in unrest, Indiana’s largest health system is pushing ahead with plans to open a primary-care office there next month and is already beginning to book appointments online.

It just the latest step for Indiana University Health into Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city. Several months ago, the system's Riley Children’s Health opened a new pediatric specialty office in the city.

Yet, IU Health could see an opening for more aggressive expansion. The health system, with 16 hospitals around the state, currently does not have any hospital, outpatient facilities or urgent care centers in northeast Indiana. Its closest hospitals are in Muncie and Hartford City, both more than 40 miles south.

Last fall, IU Health announced plans to open a primary-care medical office in Fort Wayne and predicted “additional health-care investments coming over time.”

Last week, workers installed an IU Health sign on the side of building in downtown Fort Wayne that will house administrative offices for the Fort Wayne operations.

And IU Health recently began allowing patients to book online appointments with a primary care doctor, Dr. Chung Ning (John) Tan, at his new office at 7230 Engle Road. According to the website, the next available appointment will be Aug. 1.

IU Health spokesman Jeff Swiatek declined Monday to say how many doctors and other providers will work at that location but said the organization will provide more information in the next few weeks.

IU Health’s entry into the Fort Wayne market comes as the region’s dominant hospital player, Lutheran Health Network, which operates eight hospitals in the area, continues to deal with unrest.

Lutheran’s parent, Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tennessee (no relation to Indianapolis-based Community Health Network), lost $2.5 million last year. Some physicians in Fort Wayne have criticized the company for failing to adequately invest in facilities and equipment.

Last fall, Lutheran Health suffered a major upheaval, with executive firings, and an unsuccessful attempt by a group of doctors to purchase the Fort Wayne operations.

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