Why physicians decided to leave HCA New Hampshire hospital

Physicians who have left practices affiliated with Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.H., told the Foster's Daily Democrat that their reasons for leaving vary, with the hospital's acquisition by HCA Healthcare and contract issues among the contributing factors.

Twelve of 14 primary care physicians have left practices affiliated with the 112-bed facility, affecting five to six practices. The Daily Democrat reported the exodus July 15, which comes after Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare completed its acquisition of the hospital in March 2020.

Deborah Harrigan, MD, one of the departing physicians, told the newspaper that those who left made the decision "based on what they were seeing."

Dr. Harrigan, who resigned and has accepted a new job at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury, cited lack of support for medical staff as a factor for her.

HCA is a "for-profit [operator], and I respect that they have to make money," she told the Daily Democrat. "However, what I see is that they are working to serve their shareholders, and that that is more important to them than what is good for our communities."

Dr. Harrigan also contended that the number of physicians and support staff was reduced after HCA's takeover and that people departed for pay reasons.

A prepared statement sent from Frisbie Memorial to the Daily Democrat on July 20 said: "HCA Healthcare’s acquisition of Frisbie Memorial Hospital in 2020 enabled the facility, which was in danger of being unable to serve the community, to achieve a more firm financial footing to build upon its legacy of service to the Rochester community. While the acquisition was complicated because it came weeks before the pandemic changed the healthcare business and impacted our community in ways no one could have envisioned, HCA Healthcare has invested more than $25 million to upgrade patient care in the past year."

Another physician who departed Frisbie Memorial, Deborah Mueller, MD, has joined Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, N.H. The gynecologist told the Daily Democrat that she decided to leave after she was unable to make contract changes last year.

"I decided I didn't want to do deliveries any longer," Dr. Mueller told the newspaper. "I had a conversation with the leadership of HCA and was told the contracts had been signed and I couldn't change anything. I had offered to stay with that change, as the hospital had already lost two OB-GYN doctors, a third had indicated their intention to leave and the hospitals had hired locums."

Matt Larkin, who took the helm of Frisbie Memorial as interim CEO, confirmed the physician departures and said the hospital actively is recruiting new staff as it rebuilds practices.

Access the Daily Democrat report here

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