Independent docs, Vermont hospital battle over competition

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A number of independent doctors in Vermont say the University of Vermont Medical Center is using its clout to thwart competition.

The physicians say the medical center has filed a lawsuit and tried to block their efforts to provide healthcare services as independent businesses, according to a report in the Burlington Free Press.

It's the latest in a series of lawsuits by UVM against independent doctors, the newspaper said. One lawsuit against Northeastern Reproductive Medicine, which was later dropped, alleged the two physicians who opened their own clinic tried to steal patients from the hospital, where they had run an infertility program for almost two decades, the newspaper said. In another case, a partner in Ophthalmic Consultants of Vermont, an independent practice in South Burlington, says the medical center sabotaged a real estate plan which would have allowed construction of an ambulatory surgery center.

Now the latest battle is being waged by doctors who are seeking state approval to open the Green Mountain Surgical Center in the Burlington area, As FiercePracticeManagement previously reported, the plans are opposed by the Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans and the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, which represents Vermont’s hospitals, including the UVM Medical Center.

The hospital has no such agenda to limit competition, Stephen Leffler, M.D., chief medical officer at the UVM Medical Center, told the newspaper.

However, as previously reported by FierceHealthcare hospitals around the country, including some non-profits, are engaging in anti-competitive practices, according to author and speaker Dave Chase in Forbes. “Doctors have described Mafioso-like threats that are stomach-turning,” says Chase, who included examples emailed to him by innovators who are getting thwarted in efforts to compete with existing hospitals and healthcare systems.