Left CHCRR over management dispute

By LEE J. KAHRS

BRANDON — A longtime local physician left Community Health Brandon after 14 years over a conflict with the head of Community Health Centers of Rutland County (CHCRC).

But Dr. George Fjeld says he has plans to start seeing patients again this winter. Whether that is through another health care provider, hospital or his own practice is unknown, as he said he is waiting to share details.

A primary care physician, Fjeld said he left Community Health Brandon, formerly Brandon Medical Center, in August after a disagreement with CHCRC Chief Operating Officer Don Roether.

Fjeld was at Community Health Brandon for 14 years, but has been practicing medicine in Brandon since 1984. While he said he has been having some COVID vacation time since his employment ended, he is concerned about his patients.

“I’m most upset about leaving my patients without their primary doctor,” he said. “I’ve been taking care of many of them for decades. I went to high school with some of them. I know most of them well and we’ve been through a lot together. I miss them.”

As for his leaving Community Health, Fjeld said he was fired.

“The firing was over a disagreement regarding scheduling,” Fjeld said in a phone interview Monday. “I wouldn’t adhere to the new scheduling requirements. Doctors and patients are not widgets. They’re not interchangeable and certainly not fit for a one size fits all scheduling system.”

Fjeld said he left the building after the conflict with Roether, and then discovered his employment had been terminated.

But Roether said Fjeld was not fired, that he quit.

“Well, he didn’t exactly lose his job,” Roether said in an interview Monday. “He wasn’t fired, but I can’t really comment on a personal matter.”

Fjeld said he was definitely fired.

“I was too opinionated for the CEO,” he said.

Fjeld also said he felt his dismissal was odd given there’s pandemic on and a shortage of primary care physicians, especially in Rutland County. But when asked about that, Roether said the pandemic has actually helped bring more doctors to the area.

“There are so many physicians from urban areas who want to get out of the cities, so we have had an extraordinary number of qualified candidates that we never would have been able to get,” he said.

When asked if the pandemic was a kind of blessing in disguise because of that, he said it was.

“It is also quite the opportunity because we have a number of doctors at or near retirement age,” Roether said.

Fjeld is admittedly one of them. At age 64, he acknowledges he could officially retire now, but that is not his goal. The Brandon doctor said he is entertaining other opportunities and will be seeing patients again soon. “I’m of retirement age,” he said. “Caring for the Brandon community has been my life, my work and I miss it. I’m planning to return to practice this winter and will look forward to seeing them again.”