Duffee planning specialty practice, Rocking Horse seeing patients

A day after Duffee and the center he founded parted ways, both look to the future.

Dr. James A. Duffee hopes in the next year to start a specialized pediatrics practice that serves high needs children, including young sexually abused children he served for the past 14 years at the Rocking Horse Community Health Center.

Duffee mentioned the likelihood a day after he and the Rocking Horse Board jointly announced he would leave the center he founded in 1999.

Terms of the agreement prevent either side from making disparaging remarks about the other or revealing detailed discussion about the reason for Duffee’s departure.

Duffee called his departure “a done deal.”

Rob Baker, president of the Rocking Horse Board, said “patients are showing up, people have calmed down; today’s running smoothly at the center.”

He said that although Duffee’s loss creates gaps in the center’s range of services, “the mission continues and we’re going to move forward to make sure folks are being served.”

Baker added that the center has “several interested candidates” for its open CEO position and that filling it “will go a long way” toward restoring stability during “the period of transition we’ve had as a result of (former CEO) Dana (Engle) leaving.”

Baker said he plans to have the position filled within the next few weeks.

Saying his “first commitment is to the underserved children in Springfield,” Duffee said Wednesday he’s had preliminary discussions with Dayton’s Children’s Medical Center and or Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus about establishing a specialty practice.

“It may be a couple of months before that can happen,” particularly with the holidays so near, he said. After the first of the year, “there’s a good chance we can work something out.”

He said his work will be “more focused toward behavioral” pediatrics, including working with foster children and abused and sexually abused children.

“My interest is in filling gaps in care,” he said. “I’m not going to build a practice in competition” with the Rocking Horse Center. “With my departure, there are going to be some special populations that won’t be cared for at the center.”

He also said that though he “will not be a part” of criticism of Rocking Horse in the wake of his departure, “I can say that the function or mission of a community health center is to be responsive to the community.”

Whether his departure is consistent with that, he said, is yet to be determined. “We’ll see where it goes from here.”

Although he said he could not discuss the reason for Duffee’s departure because it is a personnel matter, Baker did underscore the seriousness of the problem that led to it.

That “a board of 13 diverse people who were inspired by Dr. Duffee’s vision to become part of the Rocking Horse Center” would support the separation “should say to people that it was pretty serious,” he said.

Baker also said that though Dr. Ashley Fernandes did read a letter of protest to the Board members when they announced Duffee’s departure to the staff on Tuesday, “to my knowledge, not one of us received it.”

Fernandes is not a center employee but provides his services two days a week through a contract between the center and Wright State University.

Fernandes said Tuesday the letter was signed by more than 50 Rocking Horse staff, some of whom also publicly protested last week against what they described as Duffee’s pending dismissal.

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