Updated: HDH board OKs new pain management program

Coroner expresses concerns about consequences

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]

The Highland District Hospital Board of Governors voted Wednesday to move forward with a plan to bring a new pain management program to the hospital.

Randy Lennartz, CEO of the hospital, said the vote was 12-7 in favor of proceeding. He said the next step will be to “sit down with the Pain Management Group” to work out an agreement.

Lennartz previously told The Times-Gazette that the pursuit of a new program came at the request of local doctors. He said many patients, including the elderly, currently have to travel outside the community to receive the pain management they need, particularly when narcotics are necessary as part of the plan.

Pain Management Group (PMG) operates more than 40 treatment centers, mostly in Ohio, including at Fayette Memorial Hospital in Washington Court House.

PMG “establishes joint-venture partnerships with community hospitals to develop and operate pain management facilities that provide patients with the highest level of health care,” according to its program description. In addition to Fayette Memorial, hospitals with which it partners include Mount Carmel in Columbus, Berger Hospital in Circleville and Hocking Valley Community Hospital in Logan.

Lennartz said PMG is a “very reputable program” using only board certified doctors. “It won’t be a pill mill,” he said.

On Wednesday, four doctors who are on the hospital’s medical executive committee were present at the board meeting, with Dr. Ron Zile, chief of staff, making a presentation in support of the new program. Lennartz said the doctors recommended the program by a 3-1 vote.

The lone vote against the plan among doctors came from Dr. Jeff Beery, who is also the county coroner. Beery said Thursday one of his top concerns was how the hospital plans to market the program. He said marketing should not be done in such a way that attracted potential abusers to the clinic. Beery said that statistics show that 90 percent of pain medication in the world is used in the United States.

As coroner, he said the number of overdose cases he investigates, both fatal and non-fatal, is “horrifying.” He said many overdose victims were found to have circumvented their drug treatment programs, or used prescribed pills as “currency” to trade for their preferred street drugs.

Beery said he sympathizes with doctors who feel they cannot devote the time necessary to proper pain management, and the new program will help ease that burden. He said he respects the opinion of his fellow doctors who support moving forward with the program.

“I have the highest respect for all my colleagues,” said Beery, adding that he also has “the greatest regard for Randy” who, he said is “taking a thoughtful approach” to the issue.

Beery said he suggested doing criminal background checks on pain clinic patients to see if they have drug abuse histories, and tox screens looking for evidence of “drugs of abuse.” He said he thinks Lennartz and hospital administrators are considering those suggestions.

“I hope I’m wrong,” said Beery. “I would love to say six months from now that I was wrong.”

Lennartz said the board-certified doctors associated with PMG follow a “highly regulated” protocol when it comes to prescription-based treatments.

He said PMG will conduct education programs in the community about its protocols and procedures. In press materials available from previous partnering agreements with other hospitals, PMG states, “Diagnoses treated at the center include neck and back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic pelvic pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), and nerve damage, as well as pain associated with arthritis, muscle spasms, and shingles.”

Among its safeguards, “the center establishes an agreement with the patient that holds him or her accountable” to the use of only one pharmacy and one prescribing physician. PMG works closely with patients’ primary care physicians throughout the treatment program, according to press materials.

Lennartz said previously that a new pain management program would be similar to programs operating currently in Washington Court House, Logan and Circleville, where clinics operate one or two days a week. He said pain management can range from physical therapy to posture correction to prescriptions.

Lennartz said Dr. Amol Soin, a pain management specialist at HDH who focuses on non-narcotic treatments and minimally invasive procedures for pain management, will continue his program at HDH, but Lennartz said Soin had also expressed the need for additional help in working with patients to manage pain.

Lennartz said that after attorneys work out details, it will likely be another 90 to 120 days before the new program is operational.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

Coroner expresses concerns about consequences

By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]