University of Nebraska Medical Center will lengthen its review of a partnership with a system of community hospitals after 28 physicians publicly criticized the teaching hospital's top executive.
The physicians said they've felt left out of the loop by Chancellor Carol Aschenbrener, M.D., who oversees the university's medical school and health programs, including the medical center.
They said they were slighted during the 342-bed academic medical center's signing of a letter of intent to join Omaha, Neb.-based Alegent Health. Alegent is a system of six hospitals in western Iowa and Nebraska. Executives originally had hoped the medical center would be a part of Alegent by July, but that has been put on hold for another 45 days.
"Underlying (the physicians') position is a view that the critical role of research and medical education has not been adequately recognized in a range of decisions, including those involving alliances with other institutions," University of Nebraska President L. Dennis Smith said. "I believe that these concerns are genuine and need to be addressed."
Although the upset physicians make up a minority of the 666 full-time faculty members at the medical center, they appear to be a powerful group that includes nationally known transplant physicians and some department chiefs.
In their letter to Aschenbrener, the physicians said: "You have failed to engender our confidence and hence we are neither able nor willing to entrust our future to you."
Aschenbrener's only comment on the situation came after a meeting earlier this month with Smith. "I look forward to (Smith's) guidance as we work through this difficult issue," Aschenbrener said in a written statement. "My full attention will now be on the healing process at the medical center."
In addition to the lengthened review, Smith said the university will hire an independent consultant to "assess and resolve" disagreements between the chancellor and medical faculty.
Meanwhile, Smith said Aschenbrener will be reviewed after Aug. 1, when she begins her fifth year as chancellor.
"Notwithstanding suggestions that I evaluate the chancellor's performance now, I decline to do so," Smith said. "I have stated publicly numerous times that I will evaluate the chancellors and other senior administrative staff members every five years. That review will be comprehensive and will include consideration of issues raised recently."