VALDOSTA -- A Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered South Georgia Medical Center to continue underwriting anesthesia services for Dr. Jerry Purvis Jr. until a scheduled hearing Sept. 18 to resolve an on-going arbitration dispute between the two parties.

In a two-part decision, Tift County Superior Court Chief Judge Clinton McCorvey, sitting by designation, stopped short of granting Purvis' request to prohibit the hospital from revoking or limiting the doctor's staff privileges under hospital policy.

Purvis had argued that he was being persecuted by the hospital for voicing concerns about the quality of care there, and had wanted to be released from disciplinary action pending resolution of the dispute.

He filed the motion for injunctive relief Aug. 23. Even though the judge did not rule in his favor on both counts, he said he is happy with the ruling.

"We're all moving towards mediation in an effort to resolve this dispute," said Purvis on Thursday, "I'm hoping everyone will be able to get back and focus on their jobs and concentrate on what's important, and that is practicing good medicine for the betterment of the community."

Purvis had been faced with the cancellation of his scheduled surgeries after Sept. 1 at the hospital after hospital officials informed him they would no longer underwrite a substitute anesthesia provider.

Purvis had filed a Demand for Arbitration suit against the hospital April 27, after repeated complaints over what he perceived was a lack of proper patient care at the hospital that had gone unaddressed.

Purvis had singled out Valdosta Anesthesia Associates, P.C., (VAA) in many written complaints to SGMC Chief Executive Officer James McGahee, but the hospital had found no wrong-doing on the part of VAA during a subsequent inquiry.

On Aug. 9, McGahee sent Purvis a letter stating the doctor could either sign back on with VAA or pay for the service himself.

Purvis, a vascular surgeon, testified Tuesday that he wouldn't be able to afford that, and it would drive him out of business before the Sept. 18 hearing.

The hospital had underwritten a locum tenens, or substitute provider, during the inquiry into complaints lodged by Purvis against VAA, and that action weighed on the judge's decision.

The ruling gave SGMC two options, the first being to require VAA to provide coverage for Purvis, which Purvis did not want to accept because of on-going mediation and his assertions of poor quality.

The second option outlined in the ruling is to underwrite the substitute provider "in the same manner as has been the course of dealing during the past several months immediately preceding the filing of the lawsuit by (Purvis)."

The hospital had argued that it was only bound to underwrite a locum tenens for 60 days, or the duration of the investigation into Purvis' allegations against VAA.

Walter H. New, who represented SGMC in Tuesday's hearing, said he could understand the court wanting to preserve the status quo pending the Sept. 18 hearing, given the fact the hospital had already been underwriting the locum tenens voluntarily.

New said the second part of the ruling was more a victory for the hospital.

"We are pleased that the court agreed that Dr. Purvis is subject to disciplinary procedures under the medical staff bylaws," he said.

To contact reporter Peter Failor, please call 244-3400, ext. 247.

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