Physicians target Palomar Health leadership in no-confidence vote

Physicians at Escondido, Calif.-based Palomar Health have voted "no confidence" in leadership after the health system revealed plans to switch contracted medical groups, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Palomar announced June 21 that it had struck an agreement on a three-year contract with emergency care provider Emergent Medical Associates and another medical group, Benchmark, to provide emergency physicians, hospitalists, intensivists and related support personnel for its hospitals in Escondido and Poway, Calif.

Emergent Medical Associates would replace Vituity, a medical group based in Emeryville, Calif. Vituity has provided intensivists for the last six years, hospitalists for eight years and emergency physicians for more than four decades.

But physicians have objected to the pending choice of medical groups, with the medical executive committees at each hospital taking votes of "no confidence" June 22, according to the report. Those objecting to Palomar's decision cited lack of transparency related to the switch, as well concerns that workloads will increase.

Michelle Faierman, MD, an internal medicine specialist and hospitalist, told the Union-Tribune she knows there will be unstainable workloads and that nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be heavily relied upon to cover for fewer physicians rounding on hospitalized patients.

In a statement to the newspaper, Palomar said Emergent Medical Associates and Benchmark have vowed to keep staffing levels "as they are now for at least 90 days" while conducting "a full analysis of patient care."

Several physicians told the Union-Tribune they felt the process to select Emergent Medical Associates and Benchmark was rushed and that contract negotiations weren't transparent.

In its statement to the newspaper, Palomar disputed that it has not been transparent with the contract-bidding process.

Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen said Emergent Medical Associates was chosen because it's "most aligned with Palomar Health's strategic goals"

"Our community and patients expect us to be good stewards of our resources," Ms. Hansen said. "EMA's proposal allows us to retain all our staff, plus reinvest saved resources to upgrade patient care."

The new contracts with Emergent Medical Associates and Benchmark would take effect in August.

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