The 17 primary-care physicians who make up the New Mexico portion of Talbert Medical Group have become the Ping-Pong balls of the physician practice management set.
Last week Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque signed a letter of intent to buy the New Mexico division of Talbert from MedPartners, a Birmingham, Ala.-based physician practice management company. The price wasn't disclosed.
When the deal closes, which is expected by the end of the month, it will mark the fourth change of management for the New Mexico group since last year.
Talbert's New Mexico division has been a contract provider for Presbyterian since last year. The group will be integrated into the Presbyterian Medical Group primary-care network, which has more than 110 physicians in the Albuquerque area.
Presbyterian said it may consolidate some physician clinics, but it's too soon to tell which or how many, if any, would close.
The Talbert group had experienced some recent physician turnover related to the ownership changes over the past few years. Talbert was originally a staff model HMO under FHP International. When Santa Ana, Calif.-based PacifiCare Health Systems purchased FHP in February 1997, Talbert spun off into an independent group with about 300 physicians practicing in five states. MedPartners purchased Talbert in September 1997 and will keep the group in its other states.
"The three exchanges of ownership may have contributed to these doctors wanting to leave," said Peter Hutchinson, M.D., president of Talbert Medical Group in New Mexico.
Presbyterian grew concerned that physicians were leaving the group because 18,000 of Talbert's 19,500 patients are covered by FHP of New Mexico, which was purchased by Presbyterian last year, said Stephen Spare, M.D., Presbyterian Medical Group's executive medical director.
"With recent departures, we were concerned that FHP patients would lose their physician relationships," Spare said. "We wanted to make sure those relationships could continue, given some of the things going on at Talbert."