Hospital power struggles are becoming petty

I am a bit embarrassed by my home state's healthcare facilities this month. Anthony CirilloWakeMed Health & Hospitals, as reported in FierceHealthcare on November 30, has filed an open records request with UNC Health Care seeking audited financial statements of UNC Health Care, Rex Healthcare, Rex Physicians and Triangle Physicians Network. WakeMed contends that UNC Health Care is inappropriately using state funds to siphon business from WakeMed.


"Specifically, the records request is to determine if UNC Health Care and Rex Healthcare are improperly using taxpayer dollars to compete with WakeMed and other health care institutions by investing in physician practices and other facilities," said Bill Atkinson, WakeMed's president and CEO to the Triangle Business Journal.

He continued, "WakeMed made the request due to numerous recent transactions by UNC Health Care which have raised serious public-policy questions."
I couldn't find much on Rex's financial outlook. They received an A+ from Fitch's in '09 and evidently had a 3 percent operating margin then.

Clark Havighurst, a professor emeritus of healthcare and antitrust law with Duke University, told the Herald-Sun that he sees WakeMed's moves as merely playing politics because of its uneasiness in facing new competition in Wake County. "[UNC/Rex] probably earns profits that can [be used] to expand in any way it wants, without tapping into the state treasury," Havighurst said.

And I tend to agree. I mean, come on. There is so much confusion in healthcare that people have no idea how to move in the face of reform. There is medical tourism, geographic encroachment, M&A. It will continue so as my wife likes to say, "Suck it up cupcake." If you want to stifle the competition, perform. Instead WakeMed causes a nice distraction benefitting no one. OK, I'll eat my words if improprieties are found but to me this is a waste of healthcare dollars. And it's based on frustration, ego and power.

Moving from one extreme to another, as reported by a Fargo, N.D. judge agreed to drop charges against a doctor accused of "maliciously" slamming a door at the Fargo VA Medical Center. Dr. David Carlson was charged with federal violations of willful destruction of government property and disorderly conduct.

VA police said Carlson damaged walls by slamming the door and said his "continued actions of aggression" upset several staff members during the Sept. 10 incident. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein threw out the case after the VA police and Department of Veterans Affairs said the matter was resolved internally.

Slamming a door. I continue to be amazed at the pettiness I encounter when I work in hospitals and in this case when I read about them. Power struggles, politics, insecurity - is it any wonder so many soap operas and prime time TV shows feature hospitals? Maybe when they stop featuring hospitals the industry will know it cleaned up its act.

But among all this, as the industry squabbles, patients suffer. And at a time when accountable care calls for partnering the industry continues to splinter. In the words of Rodney King "can't we all just get along?"

Happy holidays everyone. Let's try to be civil to one another, especially those difficult family members! 'Tis the season...

Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting, which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He is also theexpert guide in Assisted Living for