Patients, Doctors Locked Out Of Medgroup

Medical center to reopen doctors' offices next week


Barbara Hartranft went to work Wednesday morning at Arizona First-Medgroup medical offices on West Cedar and found the locks had been changed.

Hartranft said the owner of the building, Scottsdale Healthcare, locked it up because Medgroup hadn't paid the rent. The building, which houses three doctors' offices, will remain closed until next week, she said, when Payson Regional Medical Center will take it over.

PRMC Chief Executive Officer Russell Judd said Thursday that Medgroup's physicians have all resigned. Medgroup, also known as Arizona First, is a physicians' management group.

"Medgroup had eight doctors in this community -- all eight have resigned," Judd said. "Effective tomorrow (Friday), PRMC is leasing the building owned by Scottsdale Healthcare."

Hartranft said she called Medgroup in Scottsdale only to find the telephone disconnected, and one of her colleagues in the Valley went to the Medgroup office and found it closed.

Attempts to reach the Medgroup office for comment on this story were unsuccessful.

According to information from the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix, the state dissolved Medgroup June 10, 1997, because the corporation's officers did not file an affidavit with the state agency.

According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the company was operating legally. Medgroup had three years from the time it was administratively dissolved to re-file. Park Miller, CEO and statutory agent for Medgroup, resigned in July.

"We were locked out of the office for non-payment of bills," Hartranft said Thursday. "Someone drained the bank accounts and office personnel won't be paid for the past three weeks of work."

The lockout affected 11 people, clerical staff, medical assistants and Hartranft, who has been acting supervisor since August, when doctors Robert Cuthbertson and John Vandruff resigned from Medgroup. Cuthbertson and Vandruff are now being managed by Payson Healthcare Management, an affiliate of PRMC.

Dr. Chris LeSueur and Dr. Dexter DeWitt will join them as members of Payson Healthcare Management Friday. LeSueur and DeWitt will continue to work out of their offices on Cedar.

"LeSueur and DeWitt will be seeing patients again on Tuesday in the building at 111 West Cedar," Judd said. "Cuthbertson and Vandruff are at 411 South Beeline where they've been since resigning."

Two other former Medgroup physicians, Dr. Thomas Bennett and Dr. Tim Shaw, have not signed on with the hospital's management group, he said.

"And in the last two months, I have gotten phone calls from creditors," Hartranft said. "They took out the X-ray processor for nonpayment."

She said the bottled water company that served them came to get their equipment back, the answering service was disconnected, and a $1,600 phone bill hasn't been paid.

Hartranft said she first began working with Medgroup in June 1998. Medgroup had 12 offices then. Now it only has three, a regional office in Flagstaff, and offices in Lake Havasu and Prescott, Hartranft said. Several of the company's offices in the Valley have closed.

Attempts to reach other Medgroup offices around the state for this story were unsuccessful. According to the Flagstaff office of Dr. Jeff Crawford, the doctor severed his ties with the company Thursday.

"Things went pretty well until the first of May," Hartranft said. "They had another company they were trying to sell the office to, but the doctors refused the contracts. Since May, it has gotten progressively worse."

Things haven't only been bad for the staff, Hartranft said. They've also been difficult for the patients.

She said patients have been sent bills for charges they are not responsible for.

"In January, they were trying to make Medicare people pay up front, which they're not supposed to do," Hartranft said. "Patients who have refunds coming cannot get them back."

Hartranft said she has decided to take an early retirement.

"I'm 62," she said. "But the other girls won't know (the status of their jobs) until next week. I was ready to cry yesterday, not for myself, but for these young girls with families."

Hartranft said even though she's out of a job, she's not going to let the matter lie. "I'm going to file with the labor board," she said. "They gave no indication that this was going to happen."

Judd said appointments for Cuthbertson, Vandruff, LeSueur and DeWitt can be made by calling 472-4675.

"The hospital has a responsibility and will make sure that the community has quality physicians so people can receive quality care," he said.

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