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Pact ends clinic dispute

8 Park City doctors to have private practice

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PARK CITY — Eight Park City doctors have reached agreement with the University of Utah and University of Utah Health Network, ending a bitter six-month dispute over the status of a longtime family health clinic here.

In a joint announcement at a noon news conference Wednesday in the City Council chambers, the parties said the doctors will continue to practice medicine at the Park City Family Health and Emergency Care Center, 1665 Bonanza Drive.

The doctors are Robert W. Barnett, Cress R. Bohnn, Robert J. Evers, Pamela L. Farmer, Joseph P. Ferriter, Christopher Hays, Elizabeth A. Marlin and Robert T. Winn. They will continue as university employees through Sept. 30 to ensure a smooth transition of insurance contracts, billing services and patient information.

After that the doctors can return to private practice, the situation that existed before they entered into a five-year contract with the health network, which expired June 30 before twice being extended during negotiations.

The university will continue to operate its Summit Health Center, 1750 W. Sun Peak Drive. Some of the six physicians hired at the Bonanza center during the dispute will move to Summit. UUHN may reassign others throughout the network.

Among other parts of the agreement, reached after often intense negotiations, with some contention to the 11th hour: The doctors agree not to pursue further legal action against the U.; both parties release the other from additional claims; UUHN buys out its five-year lease on the Bonanza building; the doctors pay the U. for clinic furniture, fixtures and equipment; UUHN pays the doctors' "reasonable" attorneys fees and severance pay.

The parties also agreed that in two weeks, a flier will be released to the community "clarifying" their motives during the dispute.

No settlement dollar amounts were announced.

Winn said the financial side was important for the doctors' survival. But he stressed it was far from the primary issue in the dispute, which began when the doctors believed the U. was determined not to renew their contracts, then sought to enforce a noncompete clause preventing them from practicing medicine in Summit and Wasatch Counties for two years.

"What matters most is the restoration of our professional reputations and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship," said Winn, one of the original doctors who became enormously popular during approximately 20 years at the clinic and sparked an outpouring of support from residents during the dispute.

"In my mind, the system worked. Now we just want to look forward to providing the best medical care we can."

That aim matched the U.'s.

"We wish the Family Health Center well, and we pledge to the people of Park City we will do everything in our power to provide them with the utmost in excellent health care at our Summit clinic," said U. spokesman Fred Esplin.

The university often found itself perceived as a Goliath bullying the Davids of a small-town practice. The firestorm of support for the doctors seemed to take university officials aback, and administrators were unprepared for the stinging rebuke of a June 3 ruling by 3rd District Judge Robert K. Hilder, roundly rejecting attempts to enforce the noncompete clause.

"I think one lesson we all learned is that although certain changes are inevitable at all health care levels, one thing remaining unwavering is the doctor-patient relationship," said Bill Orrison, chairman of the U.'s Department of Radiology, member of the UUHN board and Park City resident.

E-mail: gtwyman@desnews.com