Nearly 1,000 physicians and their spouses dined and danced to the tunes of Miami's Pink Flamingos band at the ThunderDome in St. Petersburg, Fla., recently with executives of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
Some skeptics at competing area hospitals complained privately that the lavish affair was no more than a clever way for Columbia to soften up physicians before selling them stock in its area hospitals later this year as part of its "syndication" strategy. However, William Hussey, president of Columbia's Southwest Florida division, said it was merely a way "to bring together our physicians and senior management in somewhat of a social environment to begin the networking process that would allow people to understand who Columbia is."
Whatever it was, it was grand. The company paid $15,000 to rent the 152,000-square-foot ThunderDome stadium for the black-tie event. While hospitals have been known to throw lavish parties for their doctors, trustees and volunteers, Columbia wanted to do "something different," Mr. Hussey said.
The ThunderDome was built with public funds in 1990 to help attract a Major League Baseball team, but so far, no team has come calling. So it has been used for sports events, concerts, trade shows and conferences.
While Mr. Hussey said the party "had nothing to do" with the syndication effort that will happen in Tampa Bay later this year, he loves it that competing hospitals are so worried about his company. "Last year nobody knew about Columbia in the Tampa area," he said. Columbia now owns nine of Tampa Bay's 38 hospitals.
Seeing dots.When Nashville, Tenn.-based Healthtrust-The Hospital Co. bought Epic Healthcare Group earlier this month, there was more than a little anxiety among Epic's 228 corporate employees in Dallas.
The day after the merger, it seems that a team of Healthtrust executives conducted one-on-one interviews with each of the former Epic corporate employees. Later that day, employees were told their job status.
One employee said co-workers started wearing colored stickers to convey that status, putting a humorous spin on an otherwise dour process. Green dots indicated that the employee was secure in keeping his job. Yellow meant the employee had a job during the transition period, but the future was uncertain. Black meant the worker had been given 60 days' notice. About half of the former corporate employees bore black dots, he noted.
"It was the strangest day of my career," said the employee, who declined to be named. He noted that the emotions ranged from "ecstatic" to "pissed."
Healthtrust spokeswoman Paula Lovell confirmed that some former Healthtrust employees had received 60-day notices, but said those workers may be offered jobs in Healthtrust hospitals. Some functions, such as accounts payable, were managed from Epic's corporate office, but Healthtrust handles it in the hospitals. Ms. Lovell said that it's "hard to tell who's leaving yet."
Healthtrust officials have said that they will maintain a regional office in Dallas, and that some corporate functions would continue to be based there.
Book of Cures.It's not the Mayo Clinic, but New York's Lenox Hill Hospital just got a giant boost in the name recognition department. The 652-bed teaching hospital has plowed two decades of community healthcare expertise into a new book from Random House. The Lenox Hill Hospital Book of Symptoms & Solutions explains common medical problems and treatment options in plain language. It retails for $24 and is available in bookstores nationwide and from the hospital's gift shop.
Each of the 11 chapters covers a major body system. For example, one chapter describes how the respiratory system works. Readers can look up symptoms such as shortness of breath for an explanation of the causes and treatment and find out how common disorders like emphysema are diagnosed and treated.
The book project is the brainchild of a Random House editor who received one of the hospital's health education brochures in the mail. "From a PR point of view, it's a great asset for the hospital," said Harry Sherman, director of marketing and community relations.
Lenox Hill's free health screenings and education programs rack up 25,000 visits annually and its 15-year-old Tel-Med service dispenses taped information on 300 medical topics to 175,000 callers each year. Any profits on the book will be used to underwrite health education programs, Mr. Sherman said.
Kizer in?Outliers hears that the leading candidate for the post of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs undersecretary for health is Kenneth Kizer, M.D., chairman of the University of California at Davis' department of community and international health. Dr. Kizer was the only non-VA candidate submitted to the White House by the search committee.
The position has been vacant since last September, when James Holsinger, M.D., left to take over the VA hospital in Lexington, Ky. Since then, John Farrar, M.D., deputy undersecretary for health, has filled in on an interim basis. Veterans groups have been critical of the administration for not filling the position, arguing that the VA health system lacks direction at a critical time.
Dr. Kizer would not return calls. The White House is expected to make a decision in the near future.
JCAHO speaks.Lenox Hill Hospital isn't alone in getting into the publishing swing. A "team of Joint Commission experts" has written a 1,200-page opus that defines more than 1,500 healthcare terms, organizations, names and abbreviations. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations describes the book, Lexikon, as "an unmatched resource for those who speak the language of today's healthcare providers, policymakers, legislators, business leaders, information professionals, researchers, attorneys, engineers, ethicists and consumers." The JCAHO is selling the book for $90 each.