Tenet Healthcare is moving ahead with evaluating whether to replace local physician groups with a single national company to provide some medical services at its 11 California hospitals, including two in San Luis Obispo County.
Tenet is reviewing proposals from three national companies to provide anesthesiology, emergency department and hospitalist physician services at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton and nine other hospitals. It may choose one of them by December, according to information obtained by The Tribune.
Dr. William Sogaard, chief of staff at Sierra Vista, said the medical staff is concerned about the development.
"Tenet Healthcare plans to bring multiple companies to meet with members of the medical staff of Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and other California medical centers to be considered as possible sole source providers in the specialties of anesthesiology, emergency department and hospitalist care,” Sogaard said Monday.
"For obvious reasons the medical staff at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is concerned and collectively feels we have an excellent and cohesive medical staff, which required a long time and significant efforts to develop.
"We feel that a possible disruption of this asset would jeopardize the quality of medical care in this community," he added.
The move also has prompted a statewide physician organization to send a letter of protest to Jeffrey Koury, senior vice president for Tenet Healthcare’s California region.
Dustin Corcoran, chief executive officer of the 39,500-member California Medical Association, said in a July 17 letter to Koury that Tenet was acting “unilaterally and without regard to the varying needs and unique circumstances of each Tenet hospital. Such a path could prove to be counterproductive to maintaining a high level of care at your hospitals.”
Corcoran criticized Tenet for moving ahead with the plan despite medical staff bylaws at some hospitals that require physician input before service contracts are canceled, to ensure that patient care doesn’t suffer.
Koury told The Tribune that he replied to the CMA last week, although Tenet declined to make the letter public.
In his email to The Tribune, Koury said, “At this time, no contracts have been terminated and no decisions have been made on whether or not a particular hospital will participate in using a single-source provider for some or all of anesthesiology, emergency department or hospitalist services.
“These decisions will take into account each hospital’s particular circumstances and be made with input from each hospital’s medical executive committee.”
According to a local physician who received a copy of Koury’s letter to the CMA, the letter said the three national companies will tour Tenet’s 11 California hospitals to meet with administrators and medical executive committees this summer.
Then the administrators and the medical executive committees – who represent all doctors affiliated with a hospital – would give their feedback to Tenet.
Once the three companies finish their visits by the end of August, Tenet will decide within 90 days whether to go forward with the plan and which company to choose, according to the letter. The physician who read the letter to The Tribune asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorized to release the letter.
Last month, many San Luis Obispo area doctors said they were stunned when they heard of the proposal for the first time. Both Sierra Vista and Twin Cities currently contract with several local physician practices for emergency department, anesthesiology and hospitalist services.
At Sierra Vista, the executive committee of the 400-member physician medical staff formally opposed the plan in late May. On June 3, faced with mounting opposition, Sierra Vista CEO Joseph DeSchryver told a meeting of the full medical staff that the proposal had been shelved at Sierra Vista, at least for the time being.
A for-profit company based in Dallas, Tenet owns 77 hospitals nationwide.