The board of trustees at Beaumont Health met with top physicians earlier this week to hear grievances and agreed to wait on voting on the planned merger with Advocate Aurora Health until problems can be addressed with the eight hospital medical staffs.
More than 1,500 physicians signed a five-question survey — which sources familiar with the results said were highly critical of Beaumont's management, physician and employee relations, culture, staffing and the proposed merger — prepared by the eight hospital medical staff presidents.
The presidents' letter also noted that John Lewis, chairman of the Royal Oak, Mich.-based system, sent a response addressing "many of our concerns, while leaving open the opportunity for us to improve upon their proposal. Important to many, they also indicated that the focus will be on local matters in the immediate future."
One physician was briefed on the survey results and correspondence by a medical staff president. He told Crain's Detroit Business, Modern Healthcare's sister publication, that Lewis promised physicians that the proposed merger would be put "on the back burner" until the physician issues were resolved.
In late May this year, Beaumont announced it had signed a letter of intent to merge with Downers Grove, Il.-based Advocate Aurora, a not-for-profit system that operates 28 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin. The merger is also facing a challenge from the Michigan Attorney General.
Beaumont doctors said results of the survey would remain private while negotiations continue with the board. The 1,500 signatures were collected in five days, sources said.
"Now that a relationship with our board of directors has been established, we feel it is best to resolve this matter internally and not in the media," the presidents' letter said. "To that end, we have decided to defer releasing the results of the survey."
Requests for comments to several medical staff presidents went unanswered.
In a statement, Beaumont said it values feedback from physicians and is committed to listening to them.
"Our talented team of physicians has helped make Beaumont the leading health system in the region. They are also critical to our future success. We are in the process of meeting with numerous groups of physicians to listen to them, address their concerns and work together with them to determine the best path forward for Beaumont."
Physicians said the three common systemwide problems include a culture where profits and expense reduction are placed ahead of patient care, they say doctors have little say when management makes cuts, doctors, nurses and employees don't view Beaumont any longer as the hospital of choice, they say managers treat them as if they are lucky to have jobs, insufficient staffing in all departments, from housekeeping to nursing and surgical services, has led to higher costs, lower quality and doctors taking patients to other hospitals.
In 2017, United Physicians, one of the largest physician organizations in Southeast Michigan with nearly 2,000 doctors, began a running dispute with Beaumont over managed care contracts. The dispute led UP to sue Beaumont last year and withdraw from the system's provider network.
During the past year, more than a dozen top doctors have resigned and left for other competing systems or left the state.
Last fall, two of Beaumont's top heart surgeons resigned and left over staffing issues they believed led to quality-of-care issues.
A surgeon at one of the Beaumont hospitals said lack of staff, equipment and supplies have been a real problem the past two years on the inpatient and outpatient. He said Beaumont has been slow to respond and some doctors are considering offers from competing hospitals.
"We are losing cases as a result. The status quo is no longer acceptable. How can anyone justify a surgeon spending a third of his her operating day waiting for turnaround?" said the Beaumont surgeon.
"Beaumont board to postpone merger vote while working out staff concerns" originally appeared in Crain's Detroit Business.