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Rocking Horse board weighs Duffee’s future

Doctor founded Springfield care center that sees 13,500 patients annually.

The Rocking Horse Community Health Center is talking in closed session with Dr. James Duffee about what role the center’s founder and public face might play in its future.

Board President Rob Baker said Thursday that Duffee’s “possible role” in the center’s future “is the subject of the conversation.” He added that board policy prohibits any comment on personnel matters and indicated the board hopes to complete the talks “in the next couple of weeks.”

Reached at his home, Duffee would not comment on the matter and referred all questions to Baker, as did other board members the Springfield News-Sun contacted.

A handful of Rocking Horse employees didn’t report for work Thursday, and administrators made announcements to an uncertain staff.

Discussions are “ongoing, that’s the main thing,” said Baker.

Baker said Duffee had not been fired nor asked to leave. He also said the discussions were unrelated to Executive Director Dana Engle’s decision to leave Rocking Horse Oct. 28, calling the timing “coincidental.”

“I have a long history with (Duffee), and his mission is my mission,” said Baker, who has been involved in the planning and operation of the center since 1997. “We’re all indebted to his vision.”

Within the Rocking Horse mission, Baker said, “the needs of both patients and those who deliver the care have evolved,” and “there might be differences in how that gets done” under new circumstances.

Baker said there have been discussions at the board level with staff and with Engle on how those changes might alter the center’s future operations.

“The issue is, how can we move forward?” Baker said.

Rocking Horse recently promoted Dr. Yamini Teegala to medical director, replacing Duffee in that role. Duffee last week said that he was pondering what new role he would play in the organization.

Since it opened at 651 S. Limestone in 1999 to provide medical care to underserved children, Rocking Horse has expanded to four locations in which it serves 13,500 people of all ages and becoming a Federally Qualified Health Center.

A recently completed addition will allow that patient base to expand if Ohio decides to expand its Medicaid program to serve poorer citizens.

The center has been funded with grant money and the help of support from the community. Its 11th annual RUSH fundraiser, its largest fundraiser of the year, is scheduled for Nov. 2.

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