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Wednesday, 13 December 2006 00:00

Community Assurance Statement

Written by 

The following statement was provided to The Smoky Mountain News following a meeting of the Haywood Regional Medical Center Hospital Authority Board of Commissioners on Monday, Dec. 11.

 

The decision to terminate the contract with Haywood Emergency Physicians (HEP) was an extremely difficult, but unanimous decision of the Hospital’s Board, and was reached only after the Hospital was unable to negotiate satisfactory terms for a new contract. The board consists of business and community leaders, as well as members of the hospital’s medical staff, all of whom are devoted to making decisions which are in the best interests of the entire community served by the hospital.

 

We want to assure the community that this decision was a thoughtful decision that was thoroughly researched and made with the best interests of the entire community in mind. The hospital has undertaken this change, in significant part, in response to the community’s request for more responsive Emergency Department services. We feel strongly that within a short period of time, the improvements and patient experiences in the Emergency Department will speak for themselves, and will demonstrate that this decision was the right move for our hospital and for our community.

Over the past few years, especially since the new Emergency Department facility was opened in December 2004, patient satisfaction surveys reflected a need for improvement in the Emergency Department service. A quality assurance committee was established to address these issues. Although invited to participate in this inter-departmental committee of the hospital, HEP leadership, support, and participation in the committee’s activities to improve service was minimal. HEP’s lack of attendance at some of the committee meetings was of great concern.

This process began when HEP, in May of 2006, requested to open negotiations for a new contract. Promptly afterwards, the hospital was advised by The Womble & Carlyle Law Firm, which represents over 200 hospitals nationwide, that the need for a new contract was critical to ensure the hospital’s compliance with Federal Laws and Regulations. Over the next several months the hospital and HEP attempted to negotiate terms of a new contract for the Emergency Department. In addition to the compliance issues, the hospital’s top priorities for a new contract were a willingness to work as a team to establish standard protocols to improve emergency care services and to actively engage in quality improvement initiatives, which embrace national standards. These priorities have been included in the hospital’s other physician contracts (such as pathology, radiology, and cardiology). The HEP group was reluctant to address these issues, while the new provider of Emergency Department services, Phoenix Physicians, Inc., readily accepted the requested terms of the contract.

Phoenix Physicians, Inc. will be responsible for the Emergency Department effective December 29, 2006, and a detailed transition plan is now being implemented. Before entering into a contract with Phoenix Physicians, Inc., the hospital thoroughly researched the group and found that it is a reputable and well-respected company throughout the healthcare community. It is unfortunate that some individuals have resorted to personal attacks on Dr. Steve Scott, an investor in Phoenix, as a way of diverting attention from the real issue that HEP was not willing to accept a new contract containing oversight and accountability standards sought by the Board. Dr. Scott is not involved in the operations of Phoenix, Inc.

The HEP physicians still have the opportunity to stay on the medical staff at the hospital in another capacity, or to apply to Phoenix and continue to provide emergency care services at the hospital. Some of the current HEP physicians have made application to join Phoenix Physicians, Inc.

Nancy Freeman, MD, Chair
Jim Stevens, Vice Chair
Glenn White, Treasurer
Richard Steele, MD, Secretary
Bob Browning
Mark Clasby
Michael Ray
Steve Sorrells

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