Tenet backs off proposal to end some local medical service contracts

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.
Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A tentative proposal by Tenet Healthcare Corp. to contract with a single national company to replace some local physician services at its two San Luis Obispo County hospitals has been dropped, at least for now.

That decision was announced late Tuesday, after an outcry from local doctors and formal opposition by the executive committee of the 400-member physician medical staff at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center last week.

At a regularly scheduled semiannual meeting of the full medical staff on Tuesday evening, Sierra Vista CEO Joseph DeSchryver told the gathering that the proposal was not being pursued now, said Dr. William Sogaard, a hospitalist and Sierra Vista’s chief of staff.

“The problem has been resolved, and for the time being it is a non-issue,” Sogaard said Thursday. “They are no longer planning to contract with an outside source for anesthesia, emergency room and hospitalist services. There are no assurances down the line, but we have been told this for now.”

Tenet was considering ending contracts with local medical groups that provide those three services at both Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton.

The idea was that, instead, Tenet would contract with a single company to provide those services at a lower rate to some or all 11 Tenet hospitals in California.

DeSchryver notified the physician groups and medical staff executive committee of the proposal on May 27, the same day Tenet told the hospitals of the tentative move, several physicians told The Tribune.

Officials with Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit company based in Dallas that owns 77 hospitals nationwide, did not return repeated calls for comment.

Without mentioning the Tuesday meeting or DeSchryver’s message to doctors, Sierra Vista spokesman Ron Yukelson emphasized in an email Wednesday that the proposal had never been definite.

“Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital have not made any decision regarding moving to a single provider for some physician services,” Yukelson wrote.

“Any such decision will include input from our medical staff and medical executive committee. We consider the services provided by our medical staff to be outstanding and we are committed to keeping our current physicians on our staff,” he wrote.

Sogaard said, “After the medical staff opposed the proposal, Tenet decided that this was not the best thing for our community.” He called the resolution “a collective effort between the hospital administration, Tenet and the medical staff.”

Sogaard said there was no assurance that Tenet won’t resurrect the proposal or a similar one. “That is a concern,” he said, “but it was voiced to us that there are no plans.”

Sogaard said he was optimistic that strained relations caused by the surprise proposal could be repaired.

“I feel that there is a mending of trust that needs to occur,” he said, “but the medical staff and the administration are willing to work together to make that happen.”

Sogaard said that it was his understanding that Tenet was continuing to investigate using a single provider for other hospitals in California.