Thursday, April 18, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The medical group that staffs emergency departments at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals and has been criticized for shuttling patients among facilities for purely financial reasons is being dropped by the hospitals.
The move by St. Rose to end its relationship with Emergency Medicine Physicians, effective July 15, comes just days after state regulators interviewed emergency room staff about the patient-transfer policies, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
St. Rose spokeswoman Kate Grey said the move to drop Emergency Medicine Physicians as the ER contractor was a “business decision” on the part of hospital and that it is “no reflection” on the company’s physicians. The search is on for a replacement medical group to handle emergency room patients, she said.
A Sun story this month detailed allegations of two former St. Rose ER doctors who said patients were unnecessarily transferred by a new private ambulance company. The company, Community Ambulance, is partly owned by St. Rose, which operates the St. Rose de Lima and Sienna campuses in Henderson and San Martin in the southwest valley.
The two doctors, Dr. David Watson and Dr. M. Mark Ferdowsian, said in similar lawsuits and in Sun interviews that the transfers came at the risk of patient safety. They say when St. Rose and Dr. Richard Henderson, who directed the emergency department doctors at the Siena campus, became part owners of the ambulance company, doctors were admonished to significantly increase patient transfers out of the busy St. Rose-Siena ER or face potential consequences.
They allege that when they refused to transfer patients, they were fired, which triggered their lawsuits alleging wrongful termination.
The doctors say the transfers were unnecessary and were only meant to enrich Henderson and improve St. Rose’s bottom line by opening up more beds for lucrative elective surgeries while filling the less crowded San Martin campus.
St. Rose has declined to comment on the litigation, but Grey has said that St. Rose-Siena has consistently suffered from overcrowding, thus necessitating the patient transfers.
Emergency Medicine Physicians, which is losing the St. Rose ER contract, declined to comment on its removal.
A St. Rose email that went out to emergency room employees this week said in part that Emergency Medicine Physicians “has partnered with (St. Rose) since 1998 and has implemented many innovative process improvements to help provide quality and timely care to our ER patients. Though a new group will be selected and begin staffing on July 15th, we hope that most, if not all, of our local high-quality and compassionate emergency physicians and midlevel providers will continue working with us at St. Rose.”
It’s not clear how many doctors are affected. Grey said whomever the new contractor is may employ some of the same physicians.
Other staff members are hospital employees and will remain at St. Rose, Grey said.
“There should be no impact to patients or emergency medical services,” she said.
St. Rose parent company Dignity Health dropped Emergency Medicine Physicians in its Sacramento hospital ER this year and has been satisfied with the transition to a new emergency room contractor, she said.
Grey said orientation and transition are expected before any new medical group takes over in July.