Surgeon no longer affiliated with West River

A Hettinger doctor awaiting trial in Oregon for the sexual abuse of a minor has recently parted ways with his employer, United Clinics Physicians.

Gustafson
Gustafson

By COLE BENZ
Herald Editor

It was announced to the West River Board of Directors during a rescheduled meeting May 4 that Dr. Robert Gustafson was no longer employed by United Clinics Physicians, which contracts with West River for staffing needs.

That effectively ended Gustafson’s position as general surgeon with the area hospital, and concluded a tumultuous time for West River.

Gustafson had been on paid leave since December.

The former surgeon began his tenure with West River in November 2014, and the following July pleaded not guilty to 12 criminal counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage girl in Oregon.

He is currently waiting to stand trial on those charges in Clatsop County, Ore.

But matters only worsened for Gustafson.

While out on bond, he violated the terms of his release when he was cited Dec. 13, 2015 for driving under the influence and striking a vehicle in Morton County.

The West River board accepted United Clinics Physicians’ decision and would immediately begin searching for a general surgeon, according to a statement released by West River CEO Matthew Shahan.

Because it was a contract issue between Gustafson and his employer, West River and United Clinics Physicians would not provide further comment pertaining to the situation.

Shahan said the hospital would hold a physician recruitment meeting in the near future to discuss the position and efforts to fill it.

The Hettinger-based health care provider is currently finalizing the details of having a general surgeon for a period of time in June and July, according to Shahan.

He indicated that the previous search for a surgeon took quite some time, but that he was confident West River and its facilities could attract a new doctor.

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