By Naomi Klouda
A group of people showed up at the South Peninsula Hospital board meeting to hand over 437 signatures on a petition relating to Dr. Paul Sayer.
A petition circulated locally asked the board to answer the question of why did they take the surgeon off the call list for the emergency room?
Sayer has lived and worked in Homer since 1979, starting his Homer visits in 1972 at a time when few other surgeons were available to the community.
Board President Julie Woodworth told those attending that she would not be able to discuss Dr. Sayer with them because personnel issues are confidential.
Sayer was not in attendance at the meeting.
George Hamm told the board he is going to support Sayer any way he can and 437 other people feel the same way he does.
John Custer told the board the doctor saved his life three times. “So I figure I owe him something.”
The men accused the board of harassing Sayer because he wants to retain his private practice autonomy rather than working for the hospital.
“Are you trying to take over private practices in the area? It so happens Dr. Sayer didn’t want to sell out. He wants to keep his practice private,” Custer said. “He isn’t in it for the money. Money doesn’t mean anything to him – he wants to be a surgeon.”
Marlyn Hendren described Sayer as a country doctor wearing red suspenders and Carhaarts. He can do some procedures in his office that then saves patients’ money. At times, he doesn’t charge when a patient is having financial hardship or if Medicade doesn’t cover the operation.
“Why and who and what is what we want to know,” Hendren said. “Anybody, if they were thrown out of something, wouldn’t you want to know who or why?”
The hospital’s call schedule requires a surgeon to be on call in emergency cases. Sayer said three surgeons work 10 days on-call. They also are called in when their own surgical patients have an emergency.
Rather than receiving the notice from hospital administration, he learned of it when a patient told him the hospital had taken him off the schedule. Therefore, he wouldn’t be able to be called in.
“I was told July 1 that I wouldn’t be on-call for the regular call schedule,” Sayer said. “And now also, when my patients come in and I don’t get called for them. They think I’m not available and that hurts my practice, plus I don’t get to share in the practice of emergency room medicine.”
Sayer is demanding answers of the hospital’s operating board, but feels so far that no answers have been forthcoming. He still has emergency room privileges, just will not be called in for any cases.
Cece Grevemberg, owner of Cece’s Kitchen, started the petition to the board asking for them to supply answers.
“Dr. Sayer has been good to a lot of people in this town. In the 1970s, he was the only doctor to come do colonoscopies and procedures like that which we couldn’t get here,” Grevemberg said. “We wouldn’t have a South Peninsula Hospital, if it weren’t for doctors like him.”
Grevemberg said what’s particularly unfair is to not give Dr. Sayer notice or explanation after the role he has played in local medicine and historically in Homer.
The Teamster’s Union Local 959 grew involved in the matter and placed a half-page ad in the Homer Tribune thanking him. That ad was published before Dr. Sayer found out why they were doing it. It said: “In appreciation for your contribution to this community, and especially to our Members at South Peninsula Hospital, we thank you Dr. Paul Sayer for all you’ve given.”
Grevemberg launched the petition drive to gain signatures, hoping the board would take the inquiry serious.
The board listened respectfully to those testifying. Woodworth said the next conversation they have will be with Dr. Sayer.
The hospital holds monthly board meetings each fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the hospital’s conference room. The public is welcome. South Peninsula Hospital, Inc. is non-profit organization governed by this nine-member board of directors “which ensures the hospital is fiscally sound while maintaining the quality of care and types of services desired by the residents in the Southern Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area,” according to the website.
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