Year one of Carilion Clinics bid to convert to a physician-led facility has been marked by ongoing opposition from area doctors and an urgent push to launch Virginias fifth medical school.
Since unveiling plans in June 2006 to put doctors at the head of the seven-hospital Roanoke, Va., system, Carilion Clinics architects have met with vocal resistance from independent doctors who work in Carilions hospitals and see the switch as a threat to private practice. But dissent has not stopped Carilion from aggressively recruiting specialists during the past 12 monthsor from expanding an already sweeping, costly five-year initiative to include a proposed five-year medical school.
Edward Murphy, Carilions president and chief executive officer, acknowledged the opposition from southwest Virginia doctors, but contends critics have not slowed the conversion. He cited the clinics steady physician hiring as evidence of Carilions progress. In the past year, the clinic recruited 77 doctorsnearly double Carilions annual average, he says. Recent recruits include doctors in roughly 50 specialties and subspecialties, such as neurosurgery, pediatric gastroenterology and cardiovascular surgery, according to the clinic. Murphy says recruiting in the clinics second year may keep pace with the first. It wouldnt surprise me if we did, he says.
Six of Carilions clinical chairs were recruited from outside the clinic, he added. Its been very busy, Murphy says. Its gone very well.
Nearly one year ago, Carilion executives said the systems financial survival hinged on a dramatic overhaul of its operations; the system had $1.4 billion in assets as of 2005. Officials announced plans to create a not-for-profit, Carilion Clinic Physicians, to run operations; expand its campus; hire specialists and subspecialists; and start a research joint venture with Virginia Tech University.
The plan grew more ambitiousand more expensivein January when Murphy and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger announced the partners would establish by 2010 a medical school with an emphasis on research at a cost of $30 million to $50 million. To stay on schedule, officials must draft a curriculum and file an accreditation application by April 2008, Murphy says, a task he admits is a big body of work.
Carilions success at adding doctors to its payroll has been shaken by recent high-profile departures. Since March, two private practice groups have bolted from Carilion to work at rival 521-bed Lewis-Gale Medical Center, an HCA-owned hospital in nearby Salem, Va.
We said No thank you, says Jim Blackwell, president of Radiology Associates of Roanoke. The 60-year-old doctor is one of more than a dozen from Radiology Associates of Roanoke who jumped to Lewis-Gale in March. Blackwell called Carilions employment and contract offers dictatorial and coercive. We dont owe it to (Carilion) to sell our business or to become an employee.