Sonoma County’s Second-Largest Medical Group Folds After Four Years
The Sonoma County-based St. Joseph Health Foundation, the administrative arm of Memorial Hospital's physician operations, closes its doors today, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Established in 1997, the foundation was the county's second-largest medical group, with 50 doctors in its Primary Care Associates medical group, roughly 50 family practice physicians on contract and 150 specialists for referrals. Primary Care Associates now becomes an independent medical group with 25 member physicians. Like the other five Sonoma County medical groups that have closed their doors or "retreated from managed care contracts" in recent years, St. Joseph last year "found itself in a financial squeeze between the demands of treating patients" and low reimbursements from HMOs. The foundation "signaled" its likely dissolution last summer when it dropped its managed care contracts between HMOs and the 100 doctors associated with Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals. Since Jan. 1, St. Joseph doctors have seen HMO patients only on a fee-for-service basis. According to Dr. Gary Greensweig, head of St. Joseph since 1997, the goal of the foundation was to "integrate physicians with Memorial Hospital so that doctors could" focus on HMO patients while the foundation did the billing, claims processing and administration. "It was a model for a foundation that we could not make work," he said, adding, "The task of managing the process was consuming all our efforts, and it made the medical community unhappy. We did not want to be in an adversarial role." Greensweig, who will become the medical director of Memorial Hospital, said that transferring the "costs of the administration back in the doctors' offices" could increase physician practice revenue by more than 10% (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 2/28).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.