Many scared that United Regional is doing away with residency program

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - United Regional is doing away with the Wichita Falls Residency Program and it has lots of people scared and upset.

The residency program is hoping to discuss a solution with the hospital board, but the hospital is moving forward.

C.E.O. of United Regional Phyllis Cowling said it was a tough decision, but after the current sponsor school and Community Healthcare Center parted ways, it left them with no choice.

That reasoning isn't comforting those the change will affect.

"My mother is fragile and she could go down at any time," Connie Hendrix said. "If this goes away, we will basically have three weeks to find a doctor."

Hendrix's mom is 93-years old and has dementia.

She lives with Hendrix and is treated for her condition by doctors that are part of the residency program.

"It's the best-kept secret in Wichita Falls," Hendrix said. "Nobody knows it exists."

But it won't exist much longer.

"For me as a professor, as a physician, and as a citizen, I was in absolute shock as to why the teaching hospital would want to disaffiliate from a program like that," Associate Director of the program, Dr. Jonathan Williams said.

"We just felt that our bandwidth was somewhat limited in continuing to try to take on another significant component in terms of the residency program," Cowling said.

Hendrix said she can't find any doctors in Wichita Falls that will take care of her mom, and is afraid they might have to go to Electra or Lawton.

Cowling said all 8,000 patients will be taken care of, including the nearly 3,000 seen at the United Regional emergency room.

"For the remaining roughly 5,000 patients I think we've got other options," Cowling said. "Other alternatives in the community that will care for those individuals."

Doctor Williams said he's speaking out on the issue because it's his moral obligation as a physician and doesn't want someone to die as a result.

"Will people die because they don't get their medicines, they can't get their care or don't make it into the emergency room in time," Dr. Williams asked. "It is my absolute firm conviction that yes they will."

Cowling disagrees.

"Maybe," she said. "But not because of this."

He's hoping to discuss other possible options with the hospital board.

If he can't, he has a message for the community.

"Thank you for letting us serve you," Dr. Williams said. "For letting us care for you, for letting us bring in physicians to this community. You have been absolutely wonderful."

Dr. Williams said their board has asked the hospital board to meet and Cowling has said no.

Cowling told Newschannel 6 that no one has approached her for a meeting, but she did meet with some of the leaders Thursday morning and said it was a productive meeting.

Cowling said the closing of the residency program will not affect their recruitment of physicians because United Regional already recruits most their physicians from other programs.

As far as the patients, she said the hospital will help them in the coming weeks' transition to new doctors.

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