By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
District Judge Bradley Ambrosier has signed a temporary restraining order preventing Southwest Medical Center from closing Dr. Lamberto Flores’ office.
According to the order, “the Court finds that irreparable harm is likely to be suffered by Plaintiff if Defendant is allowed to immediately close Plaintiff’s medical practice, and a temporary restraining order should therefore issue.”
The order also stated that a letter sent from SWMC to Flores on Jan. 31 that the employment agreement will continue through May 31.
The temporary injunction was to be enforced for seven days until hearing that is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
According to Nancy Kletecka, SWMC publicist, the hospital received the paperwork late Friday afternoon.
“Until administration and the board have time to look over it, we won’t have any comment,” she said.
For Dr. Flores, the termination of his contract was still a shock.
“I’ve never been involved in anything like this,” he said. “My parents can’t believe it.”
Flores completed his residency in 2000 and has been practicing OB-GYN ever since, starting in Atlanta and eventually moving to Louisiana before coming to Liberal.
Since his contract with the hospital will not be renewed, Flores is going to open a private practice in Liberal.
“Right now I am planning to go out on my own and start my own practice,” he said. “I am currently looking at space.”
Flores is working on a business loan and is hoping to make a smooth transition for his patients.
“The soonest could be four to six weeks, but it could take longer,” he said. “I absolutely love the community. This is the best place I’ve been.”
Flores said that once he became acclimated to the small-town lifestyle, he wanted to work in a community the size of Liberal.
“I really like the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “I’ve grown accustomed to it here.”
Flores still has his hospital privileges and has been on a roller coaster since the notice of his contract not being renewed. Initial indications were that he would continue his practice, but Friday Kletecka notified the Leader & Times that the facility was to be closed on Monday.
That decision was overruled by Judge Ambrosier until the hearing slated for next week.
Flores said there are risks involved with starting a private practice rather than being employed by a hospital.
“You can practice without worrying about running the business and the financials as long as you provide quality care,” he said. “I ran a practice in Louisiana. There is a different side to medicine when you have to run the business side.”
One of those differences is having to pay higher costs for medications and other necessary items because as an independent business the buying power is not as strong as a hospital.
“It also affects kind of health care you can provide to your employees,” he said. “Insurance is higher than a hospital with 400 employees.”
There have been no accusations made of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Flores in any court document or statement made by SWMC.