WellStar limits access to cardiac-cath labs
by Kim Isaza
newseditor@mdjonline.com
May 10, 2012 10:30 AM | 4237 views | 20 20 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Last month, WellStar restricted use of its cardiac-catheterization labs to only those cardiologists who are employed by the health system, a move that has caused friction among independent doctors.

“Cath labs” are where heart doctors diagnose heart patients and perform procedures such as installing stents and ballooning arteries.

Patients of non-WellStar cardiologists who need such procedures can either go to another hospital that does allow their doctor, or be referred to a WellStar cardiologist to perform the procedure.

This week, WellStar chief executive Reynold Jennings wrote to members of the medical staff to explain the move.

The decision was made “to ensure consistency in processes and standardization of protocols, and to provide our patients with the highest quality of care,” Jennings wrote, and “is simply good business for WellStar.” “Virtually all of our competitors, including Emory University Hospital, Piedmont Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital operate on this model. Protecting our competitive position in the marketplace is vital to our future success,” he wrote.

Independent doctors, though, fear the move puts their businesses in jeopardy. Those who aren’t cardiologists wonder what will be next.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, an east Cobb Republican who is a nurse and serves as chair of the House health and human services committee, is also concerned about the change.

“Any time patient access to the physician of their choice is threatened, I have real issues with that,” Cooper said. “This would seem to decrease competition, and I believe competition in the health care market brings down costs. This is not something I have heard that other hospitals are doing. I would certainly hope that the new CEO, Reynold Jennings, would reach out to me to discuss the issue.”

The Journal learned of the change from doctors, though none would speak on the record. One cardiologist in west Cobb said the change threatens to put him out of business.

“At this moment my biggest concern is the viability of my practice and the best care for my patients,” the cardiologist said. “I’m not very happy that I’m being pushed in a corner. A lot of physicians in this community are very concerned that after they spent all this time and money investing in this community they may be kicked out.”

A WellStar spokesman insists that the system is not trying to force any physicians to affiliate with the system.

“Most of the physicians/groups that have joined the WellStar Medical Group (WMG) approached WellStar and not vice versa,” spokesman Keith Bowermaster said. “WellStar strongly supports parity with all physicians — both community physicians and WMG physicians. This decision was about the cath labs and only the cath labs, and was made based on WellStar’s judgment of the best way to run the cath labs and also based on the competitive situation in that service line. There is no question that standardizing protocols and procedures will improve efficiency and outcomes in the cath labs.”
Comments
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Robert Kennedy
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May 15, 2012
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
nonprofit?
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May 11, 2012
why is a "nonprofit" (a very big joke considering the salaries they pay the top people) so concerned with competitive position and market factors? it can only be to build and reinforce monopoly power to control charges and keep the fat profit (about $200 million per year) coming so the insiders who run the operation can keep their giant pay without the free market discipline of competition.
I'm So Shocked!
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May 15, 2012
I challenge you to find a non-profit that operates without any margin. You like to point out that WellStar made "$200 million" but don't seem to care that it only has about a 5% operating margin. And as a non-profit is required to reinvest those funds into services, capital purchases and general upkeep.

And you may think that you can pay someone $100,000 to be CEO of a huge organization, but again you'd be misguided. Talented people require money, it is at the basis of your argument of having "free market discipline of competition". These people work in a free market and it requires "giant pay" (as you put it) to attract them because it is a free market discipline of competition at work.

The fact that you spew your slanted views without considering anything in reality is one thing. But not understanding your OWN writing is a bit much.
wakeupfolks
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May 11, 2012
1. Its no secret why coverage of Wellstar by the MDJ is so friendly -- Randell Bentley had the sense to appoint Otis Brumby III to the Wellstar Board,

2. If all you folks are so unhappy with Wellstar just do your homework and see that Wellstar's facilities are owned by Cobb County -- just pressure your politicians to do their job and insist on a little oversight (this fact would be reported by the MDJ but for point 1 above).
I'm So Shocked!
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May 15, 2012
Hey - do you actually read or just assume things? This paper never writes "friendly" articles about WellStar. I'm pretty sure someone at the paper has a personal vendetta against the organization.

And secondly, Randell Bentley did not "appoint" Otis Brumby III to the board, he was on the board prior to Bentley becoming CEO.

Funny how facts elude your comments.
I'm So Shocked!
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May 11, 2012
Wow - an article by the Marietta Daily Urinal that is negative towards WellStar.

Considering none of you all run a hospital system that employs 11,000 people nor do you even acknowledge that all other hospital systems operate this functionality in the same manner, you all seem to have a lot to say.

Shame on WellStar - and the over $100 million dollars of unreimbursed care they provide each year. Those jerks!

Get a life people and to the folks at the paper, find something other than your world class healthcare system to pick on. This is getting old!
anonymous
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May 11, 2012
To all of you who believe Obama Care has not "Kicked In" let me give you a big clue: We have been getting "Health CareObama Care" for about two years now!!!!!!!!! A Cobb hospital gave my 85 year old Dad the Obama Care "treatment" and dumped him out the door with oxygen and kidney cather he didn't go in hospital with, after 4 days and young interns said computers showed he was in excellent health----but the nursing home would decide that didn't they. The hospital employees turned into hateful, mean and crude people after 4 days. Transition or Obama Care!
Cobb County Taxpayer
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May 10, 2012
Remember all those cardiologists from Solaris that joined WS CVM - they were given a choice of NOT being able to use WS facilities when their contract was up unless they joined WS Cardiovascular Medicene... so they made the decision to disolve their practice and join CVM. Several employees from Solaris lost their jobs due to the fact they were listed as "no rehire" by WS.

Another note of interest - when CVM was purchased by WS - one of the cardiac tests (nuclear stress test) increased in cost over $2000. Also, 2 of my non-wellstar doctor's practices had to relocate as they were not given the option to renew their lease....one was located in the office building on Cherry Street.

I feel that WS has too much of a monopoly in the Atlanta area and too much influence in the state as a whole. One of my friends who is a RN in another state - is not allowed to sit for the RN exam in GA unless she does over 600 clinical hours in GA (not paid) because WS lobbied and won to have her on-line school banned as an acceptable nursing school in the state of GA.

Also, WS is good at covering up their secrets....
Harvey W.
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May 11, 2012
This is the same WellStar that hasn't had a Pharmacy Director in over 2 years. The medication program there is scary. Have you or a loved one had a medication error there since Feb 2010? Get a lawyer. They are truly negligent.
I16
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May 10, 2012
WellStar; plan is to tell their physician how many patients they are to see in an hour and how to treat them.

(Kennestone Wellstar) was a not for profit hospital.

Sounds like a Pelosi, Reed and Obama plan.

Thank you Wellstar.

Rick8
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May 10, 2012
All the reason to go to Emory, if DeathStar can't buy you out they will nitpick you to death with rules and regulations. My wife works for non DeathStar doctors and she tells me all the hoops she has to jump through to get anything done there.
YoYo'sWorld
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May 10, 2012
Emory is no better! They can't diagnose plain old parasite infestation (old folks call it "worms"). I knew a man that treated over 5 different times from and an autopsy found he died from parasites (worms). Any old country doctor could have cured him, but not these elite doctors. I have other stories of their incompetence.
Bob Bummer
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May 10, 2012
The doctors left out in the cold should join together and open their own cath lab or partner with another cath lab that is available. If that is not feasible then I would be inclined to believe this is infact about forcing doctors to join Wellstar despite the denial from Wellstar.
southernbychoice
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May 10, 2012
Just wait until Obamacare kicks in - this is just the start.
Frankie58
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May 10, 2012
So much for Patient choice. This is nothing more than putting dollars in Wellstar "only" physicians pockets! The "independent doctors" are a dieing breed, and that's what these "corporate" hospital want!!!
StJospehsForMe
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May 10, 2012
YUP.
Cobb Taxpayer
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May 10, 2012
All I can say is Wow! This is definitely not good and certainly does nothing to contain costs for patients. There is nothing like driving out the competition to make sure the price goes up!
In the light
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May 10, 2012
Just 4 months ago, the Director of Cardiac Surgery at WellStar was quoted as saying "timely and equitable cardiac care has been and will remain our number one priority".

I guess door to balloon time is only a quality measure if you belong to this most deceptive and fork-tongued system.

YoYosWorld
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May 10, 2012
If I wasn't already a patient of a WellStar Cardiologist, I'd be "raising hell". This will come back to haunt WellStar. It's not bad enough they have the worst pathologist!
Sad but true
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May 10, 2012
When WellStar becomes more concerned about competition than about quality of care, we are in

extreme danger.
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