South Carolina courting Vail surgeons

Cliff Thompson

If Steadman, 65, and Hawkins, 61, spend less time in Vail, however, there is a possibility the transition could affect the bottom line of the Vail Valley Medical Center. Orthopaedic surgery conducted by the clinic and the patient care generated by doctors there accounts for 31 percent of hospital’s annual $83.6 million budget, said hospital board chairman Ed O’Brien.”I don’t anticipate a material reduction in revenue,” O’Brien said. “But inevitably, there will be some. We want to have a thoroughly planned transition to avoid any potholes.”An intangible would be the loss of presence of he two founders of the clinic as they begin taking a less active role here in their surgical practice, O’Brien said. The worth of an incentives package aimed at bringing them to Spartanburg has not been announced.The hospital board is working to recruit other surgical disciplines, meanwhile, including a rhinoplastic (nasal surgery) specialist and possibly an oncological surgeon, O’Brien said. Some of those would work out of Vail in the summer when operating room schedules are freed of ski-season orthopaedic surgery load.”We want to develop programs for summer residences for doctors,” O’Brien said. “We want to balance out the winter seasonality (of the operating room).”The Steadman-Hawkins Clinic is ironing out the details of a partnership with Triad Hospitals, the country’s third-largest hospital operator. A deal is anticipated later this summer. Triad would provide capital, allowing the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic and Foundation to build the facilities it needs, said Dr. James Siliman, chief executive officer of the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic. Those would include wellness, fitness and rehabilitation facilities, as well as a medical office. Triad would benefit from the increased surgical activity and research.”It’s not finalized yet,” Silliman said. “We opened a way to develop a legacy for the clinic.”Part of that legacy has the clinic looking for replacements for Steadman and Hawkins in Vail, O’Brien said.High-profile patientsThe Steadman-Hawkins Clinic has attracted its share of high-profile patients, including former Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway, German international soccer star Lothar Mattias, tennis player Monica Seles, retired general Norman Schwartzkopf, skier Tommy Moe and others. The Foundation board is studded with luminaries, too, such as King Juan Carlos of Spain.The clinic supports six full-time surgeons, as well as six fellows, who study surgery after their orthopaedic residencies.Steadman was a college football player at Texas A&M under Bear Bryant, while Hawkins played professional football in the Canadian Football League.Where’s Spartanburg?The Spartanburg area is on a rapidly developing corridor on the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, between Greenville, N.C., and Atlanta. It is home to several multinational corporations, such as BMW and Michelin, and there are a number of universities and colleges in the area, Siliman said.”We were courted by locations that were much more exotic,” Silliman said. “This is a much better fit. The culture is great and it’s remote enough that our two facilities don’t compete. We’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years.”O’Brien said the transition would begin next year if the pending 12-year agreement with Triad is inked, and Steadman and Hawkins may begin to spend up to half their time away from Vail.”Our relationship with them has allowed our hospital to grow in a manner it might not have grown without them,” said O’Brien.An accredited Level III Trauma Center, Vail Valley Medical Center last summer completed a $7.5 million expansion. It now has 49 beds, five operating rooms and four intensive-care beds.The Steadman-Hawkins Clinic was relocated to Vail in 1990 from the Lake Tahoe area by the owner of Vail Associates at the time, George Gillett. It was known as the Tahoe Fracture Clinic.Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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