Hospital coalition speaks out on Tenet contract moves

Several California healthcare professionals have formed a Coalition for Quality Hospital Care in response to Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s plan to cancel contracts with independent physicians, according to an announcement from the coalition. One Tenet hospital has already protested, calling the statement inaccurate.

The coalition claims Tenet, the nation's third-largest for-profit hospital network, is soliciting bids to replace local emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists and hospitalists at 11 of its 12 California hospitals with a single staffing firm. It would then use the successful emergency medicine contracts to cut costs. The coalition formed to oppose these plans.

But one Tenet hospital spokesperson says the plans are in the nascent stages and that it has included staff physicians in the process. 

"As part of our hospital's continual efforts to provide high levels of quality and service to our community, we are evaluating physician groups that deliver anesthesia, emergency department and in-hospital services," Ron Yukelson, spokesman for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, one of Tenet's California hospitals, said in a statement emailed to FierceHealthcare.

For these evaluations, Sierra Vista reached out to both its medical staff leadership and its Board of Directors and arranged meetings between them and "several highly qualified potential physician groups." These meetings, the statement said, "were very productive and we appreciate the time our medical staff and Governing Board members have provided to this evaluation." 

Members of the coalition include the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, whose president, Mark Reiter, M.D., said in a letter to Tenet last week that the proposal is "bad for Tenet, bad for its hospitals, bad for its physicians, bad for its patients and likely runs afoul of federal fee-splitting laws and California's corporate practice of medicine laws." 

The California Medical Association (CMA) also expressed reservations about reported Tenet contract terminations in a blog post last week, saying the proposal could adversely affect medical staff autonomy. The CMA said there could be a "serious negative impact on quality of care should Tenet unilaterally and abruptly terminate existing service providers who have been providing care in Tenet's hospital communities, some for many decades."

CMA attorneys are currently scrutinizing the plan, according to the post.

Tenet has been one of the highest-profile participants in a trend toward "non-merger merger" strategic alliances, entering into an Arizona-based joint venture with Dignity Health and Ascension Health in July, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the letter
- here's the blog post