Erlanger breeding culture of distrust among staff, physicians allege

Recent decisions and alleged threats by leadership at Erlanger Health System over physician contracts have reportedly created a culture of distrust among physicians at the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based system, according to documents obtained by the Times Free Press.

Four things to know:

1. The Times Free Press obtained letters sent to Erlanger's board of trustees discussing the system's plans to terminate its contract with Tennessee Interventional and Imaging Associates, or TIIA, if the group does not agree to a contract amendment giving Erlanger more control over the organization, the report states. TIIA physicians have provided care at Erlanger's stroke center since 2014.

2. At the heart of the dispute is the involvement of Erlanger board member Blaise Baxter, MD, who resigned from his leadership role at TIIA in January 2018. Documents obtained by the publication indicate that after rehiring negotiations between TIIA and Dr. Baxter failed, Erlanger CEO Kevin Spiegel issued a contract termination notice to TIIA, citing financial concerns with the physician group. An Erlanger executive confirmed the contract termination to the Times Free Press.

3. While Erlanger has posited that the termination notice stemmed from financial concerns, TIIA claims the company increased patient revenue by 23 percent during the 2017-18 calendar year, and that a third-party audit found "[no] material issues ... regarding TIIA's practices and procedures," according to the report.

"All of these meetings and conversations in 2018 revolved around the resignation and hiring of an Erlanger board of trustee member. TIIA can only conclude that the notice of termination has less to do with finances and more to do with Dr. Baxter's resignation from the group and Erlanger's insistence on rehiring him," the physician group wrote in a letter to the board.

4. The contract termination would likely put 50 TIIA employees out of work by July, including radiologists, nurses and administrators, the report states.

To access the full report, click here.

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