SACRAMENTO: Methodist Physicians Advocate Split from Mercy
Citing unfulfilled promises, a group of Methodist Hospital physicians, including the chief of staff and four department heads, have asked the board to consider breaking from Mercy Healthcare Sacramento, six years after merging with the hospital system, the Sacramento Bee reports. Central to their complaint, Methodist's doctors charge that Mercy has shunted the flow of profit-producing specialty patients away from Methodist toward other Mercy hospitals, including Mercy General and Mercy San Juan. Since joining Mercy in 1993, so few patients needing specialty care have gone to Methodist that many specialists have left the hospital, according to Dr. Allan Galbreath, a Methodist surgeon who is leading the charge to break from Mercy. Galbreath said, "When we got together, Mercy looked us in the face and said, 'We're going to build up your hospital, we're going to make it bigger and better,' and in fact, the reverse has happened." Neurosurgery is no longer performed at Methodist, and the hospital recently lost its last ear, nose and throat specialist. Moreover, Methodist posted a $2.2 million loss for the fiscal year ending June 30. However, Mercy officials contend that they have "invested substantially" in Methodist: In addition to a new $30 million wing and a state-of-the-art birthing center, Mercy officials indicate that they relocated Mercy General's pediatric department to Methodist. System spokesperson Cindy Holst said, "Mercy sees a lot of progress and promise at Methodist, and we believe it has an important role in serving south Sacramento." Holst did admit that most specialty patients are seen at Mercy General or Mercy San Juan, and she said the practice would continue. However, she noted that Mercy had not abandoned specialists at Methodist, pointing to plans to hire a gastroenterologist and the recent increase in the number of privileged cardiologists at the hospital. Since the merger, Holst said that the number of physicians with privileges at Methodist has increased from 250 to 342. However, Galbreath argues that Mercy has not done enough. Calling the situation "serious," Galbreath said that if four key surgeons left the hospital, it would have to close its operating room. Mercy officials and members of Methodist's Board of Directors are scheduled to meet with the physicians on Wednesday (Fisher, 12/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.