Members of the Fergus Falls community were made aware that Dr. Jeffrey Horak, longtime general surgeon at Lake Region Healthcare (LRH), is no longer working at the facility as of Wednesday.

The announcement came less than two weeks after Horak spoke in favor of parents making health care decisions for their children at a school board meeting. The meeting garnered high community attendance due to the implementation of a 10-day mask mandate within the school district, which was voted to expire effective on Friday at a special school board meeting held on Wednesday.

The following statement was provided by Kent Mattson, chief executive officer of LRH, regarding the matter: “Lake Region Medical Group (LRMG, the provider group that employed Horak) provided notice to Lake Region Healthcare (LRH) that Dr. Jeff Horak will no longer be available for general surgery services at LRH after Oct. 20, 2021.”

Mattson explained that Horak was placed by LRMG for services at LRH under a professional services agreement. “We sincerely appreciate Dr. Horak’s 16 years of service to our patients and our organizations and we wish him the best as he transitions his practice from here,” Mattson stated, sharing that LRH is working with LRMG to ensure continued access to general surgery services through the organization’s complement of talented and dedicated general surgeons who will “ensure we have surgical coverage in place to provide uninterrupted service for all patient needs.”

Mattson did not specify why Horak no longer working at LRH and did not address questions relating to the school board meeting Horak spoke at. No clarification was given regarding whether or not a “without cause” termination agreement was in place.

There is much speculation and many questions regarding the circumstances surrounding the fractured relationship between Horak and LRH that remain unanswered. In response a local group has organized a peaceful protest for Monday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. outside of LRH and across the street at NP Park with the purpose of showing support for Horak and his decision to speak out regarding parental choice. Dr. Scott Jensen, a Republican candidate for Minnesota governor, will be speaking alongside Horak. 

The Horak family agreed to provide a statement to the Daily Journal by Friday morning. After multiple attempts to secure a statement on Friday, it was not received by press deadline. A statement was received on Saturday afternoon with apologies surrounding the timeliness in providing a statement for the Fergus Falls community. Horak's statement addressed some of the lingering questions and speculation occurring in the community.

In the statement, Horak explained that on Oct. 11 he addressed the school board as a representative of community members that had approached him. At the meeting he suggested that parents be allowed to make healthcare decisions on behalf of their children. He also referenced a monkey from a zoo in Detroit that could tie knots with his thumbs, a statement that was misconstrued as racist.

In the same meeting, he referenced a local tragedy – one that he obtained permission to reference from the family. Heather Dirkman, mother of the child referenced, told the Journal that "Jeff (Horak) has always had my and my husband's permission to use Avah's story and our story is public knowledge."

Nine days later, Horak shared that he was approached with a choice – resign or be terminated. The result was termination. 

"We live in America where freedoms are held close," stated Horak. "I am a man who believes individuals have the right to do their research and decide what is best for them and their children when it comes to their health. I don’t believe governments or institutions should dictate that. It’s a position I’ve always have taken. And when the science doesn’t make sense to me it’s hard for me to go along."

Horak was not provided a direct explanation for his termination, a contractual factor that he states he was well-aware of. At this time, the exact reason for the decision is unknown. "I may never know," he shared, emphasizing that what he does know is that he lives in an amazing community, expressing gratitude for the support that he and his wife, Debbie, have received since he was terminated from LRH. "It has been an honor to walk alongside you in your healthcare choices, some life threatening, some simple surgical procedures, but also with those of you who chose no surgery. I thank you for entrusting your care to me. I have been humbled to serve you."

The Horak family is currently evaluating their next steps. 

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