Anesthesiology group launches ad campaign decrying Atrium Health's decision to switch providers

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

A Charlotte, N.C.-based anesthesiology group that was recently passed over for a contract renewal by Charlotte-based Atrium Health launched an ad campaign protesting the health system's decision, claiming Atrium's new service provider will "seriously jeopardize patient safety," according to a Charlotte Observer report.

Atrium Health opted not to renew a nearly 40-year agreement with Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants earlier this year, stating SAC was not willing to lower costs to Atrium's satisfaction or introduce a new operating model, according to the report. Instead, the health system plans to replace SAC with Charlotte-based Scope Anesthesia of North Carolina once its contract with SAC expires June 30.

This past weekend, SAC launched an ad campaign and website decrying Atrium's move to switch providers, arguing the health system did so to increase profits, not necessarily to lower patients' bills. SAC also contended Atrium plans to adopt a radically different operating model that places greater reliance on nurse anesthetists, The Charlotte Observer reports.

"Conglomerate hospital behemoths like Carolinas HealthCare System — now Atrium Health — can have unhealthy consequences for patients and their communities," the website reads. "This dangerous precedent would allow the system's management to set standards for practicing medicine, rather than having clinicians determine what's best for their patients."

However, Tom Wherry, MD, founder of Scope, Atrium's forthcoming anesthesiology services provider, previously said physician staffing will not decrease when the transition is completed. Dr. Wherry told The Charlotte Observer his business model involves paying physicians the same or more than SAC did, and noted Scope will be able to provide anesthesiology services at lower costs.

"I can say with confidence the revenue, instead of going to Florida and to Wall Street, it's going to stay here in Charlotte for patient care and for support of the community," he said.

"Since 2014, due to ongoing concerns we have had with Mednax, Atrium Health has transitioned away from Mednax to other anesthesia providers in four other Atrium Health facilities. Each of these transitions has been seamless and maintained or enhanced quality and patient satisfaction. Our physician leadership at Atrium Health, including our surgeon-in-chief, fully supports our new approach to anesthesia services, as it will continue to enhance safety, high quality care and affordability," Atrium Health said in a March 21 memo to employees, obtained by Becker's Hospital Review

"Atrium Health highly values and respects the anesthesiologists currently practicing at Atrium Health facilities, and it is Atrium Health's preference that there are no changes in our anesthesiologist providers. We have requested Mednax to allow these physicians to continue to practice at Atrium Health. This is a decision, however, that is solely for Mednax to make."

To access The Charlotte Observer report, click here.

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