Growth of Physician-Owned Hospitals Draws Criticism
As more physician-owned specialty hospitals open in California and nationwide, full-service hospitals are concerned that such facilities will threaten their viability by competing for patients and operating without the same federal guidelines, the Los Angeles Times reports.
About 200 physician-owned specialty hospitals exist nationwide, including a dozen in California, according to the American Hospital Association. The AMA opposes the facilities.
Nearly one-quarter of physician-owned facilities opened within the last year, and experts predicted the trend would accelerate because federal restrictions were eased last year.
Full-service hospitals contend that such facilities can offer the most profitable procedures, while federal law requires general hospitals to treat all patients, regardless of insurance status.
Hospitals also argue that the facilities will threaten the care of the uninsured and patients with chronic conditions who require multiple specialists.
The California Heart and Surgical Hospital in Loma Linda, set to open this fall, will offer specialty care such as heart, orthopedics and inpatient surgical procedures that once were exclusively provided by general hospitals.
James Thomas -- president of Cirrus Health, the Dallas-based manager of the facility -- said, "Because of improvements in medical science, big hospitals are not needed for most treatments." He added that physician-owned facilities "can do things a whole lot cheaper because we have fewer expenses and because we are a lot more efficient" (Yi, Los Angeles Times, 7/25).