Residents sign petition to retain local doctor

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Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

Dr. Mark Moriarty has served the Macon County community for years as an orthopedic surgeon. He is currently the only orthopedic surgeon listed in Franklin. This week, Franklin resident Karen Stiwinter started an online petition urging HCA, who purchased Mission Health Systems which includes Angel Hospital, to continue negotiations with Dr. Moriarty to retain his services in Franklin. 

Stiwinter received a letter from Asheville Orthopedics office near the end of August notifying her as a patient that after Sept. 29, Moriarty will be leaving the practice and moving to New York. 

“I am just really upset that we aren’t going to have any real specialists around here,” said Stiwinter. “I don’t want to have to go to Asheville every time I need to have something done.” 

After hearing about how a petition was effective in retaining Dr. Thomas Duncan in Cashiers, Stiwinter hoped the same effort would be beneficial here.

Stiwinter noted the decrease in specialized service in Western North Carolina over the years in her petition. 

“The lack of specialized healthcare is affecting our community in negative ways,” reads the petition. “In the past two or so years, OB-GYN services, eye surgery, and now orthopedic surgery, have been or are being discontinued. This creates financial hardships for our citizens. This also creates a financial hardship when recruiting new business to Macon County.”

The petition, which was published on change.org has been circulating on Facebook and has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures as of press time. With signatures, residents have added comments as to why they support the petition. 

“I had the honor of working with Dr. Moriarty when he came to Angel,” wrote Kelly Pannell. “He is an amazing surgeon and asset to our community. I am both saddened and angry at the direction our local healthcare has taken. In my 10 years at Angel, I have seen so many dedicated, passionate and skilled practitioners leave our area. Bringing in knowledgeable providers was once a strong focus and push for our hospital, but is obviously neglected now. As a community, we need to be concerned about the future of our healthcare accessibility.”

Dr. Moriarty joined Asheville Orthopedic Associates, an affiliate of Mission Health in June 2013 after leaving a position as an assistant clinical professor in the orthopedic department at Duke. He received his medical degree from Georgetown University Medical School and subsequently completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Monmouth Medical Center. Immediately after residency he served in the Air Force as an orthopedic surgeon at MacDill Air Force Base. He has extensive experience in many facets of orthopedics and his primary interests include sports medicine/arthroscopy and joint replacement. During his tenure in Franklin, he has also served as team physician for the high school football team. In his spare time he enjoys horseback riding, auto restoration, music and cooking.

“My understanding of the relationship between a physician and patient is that we work together to accomplish a desired goal,” reads Dr. Moriarty’s about page on Mission Health’s website. “My principle role is to provide the patient with accurate information about their condition or diagnosis. That usually includes defining options of treatment that are available in managing a particular condition. As a surgeon, my skills include a variety of very specific surgical procedures that may be of benefit in certain situations. I wish that I could only do surgery where everyone did as well as they desired. Unfortunately there is a degree of uncertainty in everything. I give my best effort in applying my skills, my experience, advancing and ever changing technologies and my judgment to each circumstance or situation. Your best outcome is my priority.”

The notification from Asheville Orthopedics did say that a replacement for Dr. Moriarty was likely, but that it would be an orthopedist, not necessarily a surgeon. More than just losing Dr. Moriarty, Stiwinter said she believes the entire situation is to the detriment of the community. 

“I am just so concerned about the future of our community and our healthcare,” said Stiwinter. “Losing doctors who have an established presence here is become routine and it really takes a toll on the community as a whole.”

Stiwinter admits she isn’t 100 percent certain of why Dr. Moriarty is leaving. She said that even if nothing is accomplished, she believes it’s imperative for residents to stick up for doctors so the trend of having a revolving door of practitioners can end.

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