Dr. Kevin Karpowicz has opened a pediatric practice at St. Clare’s Family Health Center, hoping to strengthen Schenectady County’s primary care system.
“This is a historic opportunity for the community, as all of the health care is changing between St. Clare’s and Ellis,” Karpowicz said.
Karpowicz launched his practice this week after his prior employer, Hometown Health, accepted his resignation in January, three months before its effective date.
He resigned, he said, because Hometown’s financial problems were affecting patient care. Hometown is a federally designated community health center, considered part of the community’s safety net. It has suffered financial problems for years, jeopardizing its mission to treat the community’s large population of poor people who have little or no insurance.
In recent weeks, Hometown has been under federal review and is following recommendations to reduce its medical staff to bring the facility in line with the number of patients it sees. As part of the process, Hometown merged its pediatric department with its family practice department.
Karpowicz had criticized the consolidation of departments, claiming the new arrangement will make it difficult for Hometown to accommodate the large number children with special medical needs or with little or no insurance in the community.
Hometown spokesman Joe Gambino said Hometown maintains two pediatricians on staff and that its family practitioners can see children as well. “There is no way we have given up on pediatrics,” he said. “We will continue to see children here.”
Karpowicz said he is a faculty member of St. Clare’s Family Practice Residency Program. He will work with medical residents in the program, “teaching them and developing our whole pediatric program.” Currently, he is the only attending doctor on the staff but plans to recruit more to work with him.
Karpowicz is seeing patients in St. Clare’s Family Health Center, 624 McClellan St. The hospital is working to develop an office suite in the same building. The new office will be called the Pediatric Health Center of St. Clare’s.
“We will see all patients, regardless of their source of income and insurance,” Karpowicz said.
At some point, St. Clare’s will surrender its operating license and become part of Ellis Hospital. Ellis will then operate three campuses in the county: its own on Nott Street, the St. Clare’s campus on McClellan Street and the Bellevue Health Center in Niskayuna. Ellis took over the Bellevue Woman’s Hospital in November, as mandated by state law.
“As it is now coming under a single administration, everybody recognizes for the hospital system to work well, the primary care system has to work well,” Karpowicz said. “We want to strengthen the whole primary care system in Schenectady.”
Karpowicz said he discussed his pediatric practice with both St. Clare’s and Ellis officials prior to launching it and that both said they support the new pediatrics service.
Karpowicz joined Hometown in 2005 when it bought out his practice, becoming its vice president of medical services.
In November, he resigned as vice president but remained as a pediatrician on staff. In December, he submitted his resignation. The board accepted his resignation Jan. 9, the day an article appeared in The Daily Gazette in which he stated his concerns.
He said he is already seeing some of his former patients, and expects to see even more as the St. Clare’s practice ramps up. Gambino said he does not consider Hometown in competition with Karpowicz, based on their different missions.
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