While physicians are lobbying hard on Capitol Hill to maintain the right to own hospitals, a long-established group of cardiologists in Oklahoma has decided to step back from managing the business side of healthcare.
The Oklahoma Heart Institute, Tulsa, sold its practice for an undisclosed sum to Hillcrest Medical Center, also in Tulsa, amid a competitive market for providing heart care in the region. Perhaps taking its cue from a now-dissolved joint venture between local cardiologists and the St. Francis Health System, the Oklahoma Heart Institute retained its name but relinquished its ownership when it became a division of Hillcrest in April. The Hillcrest agreement comes at a time when some congressional leaders continue searching for a way to curb physician ownership in the future.
Wayne Leimbachformer president of the institute and now its medical director after the salesays there were several reasons for the deal. As Hillcrest completes the construction phase on a heart pavilion scheduled to open in January 2009, it sought to secure its investment by employing cardiologists. And the arrangement could ease the cardiologists worry about continuing to thrive financially, given cuts in Medicare.
Comments were made that you might need venture capitalists, Leimbach says. Were here practicing medicine, and now were having to get into the business side.
Leimbach says the Oklahoma Heart Institute had been invited to become a part of the St. Francis Heart Hospital, Tulsa, which opened in 2004, but declined the offer. Three years later, St. Francis acquired the stake of the physicians who did participate and merged the heart hospital with its main campus, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
We felt its hard to handle the expertise at a heart hospital, Leimbach says. We wanted to be part of a tertiary-care center. We dont mind if they make a profit if we are guaranteed the state-of-the-art technology, and they continue to develop the cardiology program, he says of 409-bed Hillcrest.
The group, which includes invasive cardiologists, noninvasive imaging specialists, electrophysiologists, and heart failure and preventive health specialists, will still have privileges at other hospitals. And they will continue to see patients at nine outreach clinics within an hour of Tulsa, Leimbach says.
The agreement was made about nine months before Hillcrest plans to open its 104-bed Hillcrest Heart Pavilion, a $64 million facility that will span 181,100 square feet and include a cardiovascular diagnostic center, a 24-bed cardiovascular intensive-care unit, a heart-failure center and an education center.
Hillcrest leaders began negotiations with the physicians early last summer and are eager to have cardiologists who were trained at the Cleveland Clinic, Northwestern University, New York University Medical Center, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and Creighton University, says Steve Dobbs, the hospitals chief executive officer.
The doctors have been practicing at Hillcrest for 22 years, Dobbs says. They have always been a part of us. A couple of years ago, part of our strategic future was building a heart pavilion. As we continued to have discussions, it made sense that we come together as one.What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.