2006-01-27 / Front Page

Gaffney surgeon joins Palmetto Health Baptist in Easley

By KLONIE JORDAN Executive Editor editor@gaffneyledger.com

DR. WHEELER DR. WHEELER Longtime Gaffney surgeon Dr. William E. Wheeler announced today he will move his practice to Easley.

Wheeler, who came here in August of 1991, has accepted a position with Palmetto Health Baptist. He will open his new practice in mid-March as part of the Easley General Surgeons group. His office in Gaffney will close Feb. 24.

Wheeler, who performed about 600 surgical procedures last year, said his patients can immediately begin picking up their records.

He said he has been mulling the move for the past year, saying his decision is primarily a matter of economics.

“I love Gaffney,” he said. “There are a lot of wonderful people in Gaffney and I’ve had the opportunity to meet a great many of them. Some of my patients have already said they will visit me in my new location.

“One of the reasons I’m leaving is the increasing and exorbitant malpractice insurance premiums,” he continued. “Palmetto Health Baptist will pay my malpractice insurance and since they’re a charitable institution, there are limits on the amount of lawsuit damages that can be awarded.”

He pointed out that his malpractice insurance premiums have risen nearly 700 percent in the past 14plus years.

Wheeler said other factors in his decision involve decreasing payments from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurances as well as the out-of-county referral of procedures that could be performed locally, something that has been increasingly frustrating for him.

Palmetto Health Baptist opened its Easley facility in 1958. It is a 109-bed general acute care hospital. Among the services it offers are surgery, lithotripsy, MRI, CT Scan, and emergency and outpatient care. The facility added a sleep lab in 1996. Wheeler’s departure leaves Gaffney with just two surgeons – Dr. John Stowell, who shared a building with Wheeler under the name Gaffney Surgical Associates – and Dr. Manzoor Ahmad.

“I hate to see him go,” said Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Cook. “He’s been here a long time and is a well-respected supporter of our city and county. He’s an excellent doctor. It’s definitely a setback for the medical community.”

Upstate Carolina Medical Center Administrator Joe Howell was out of the office and unavailable for comment.

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