September 9, 2008
Proposed OSU Residency Plan Raises Concern on Indigent Care
By KIM ARCHER
Oklahoma State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine is trying to get St. Francis Hospital to take on its residency program, a deal that could mean the end of the city's de facto public hospital for the indigent, the OSU hospital's former chief of staff said Thursday.
"I am concerned about the impact this will have on our community, our state and the osteopathic profession," said Dr. Ken Calabrese, whose private nephrology practice is affiliated with OSU Medical Center.
"What I know is if this deal goes through, the hospital will close," he said.
For years, the aging facility has struggled through ownership changes and financial problems, bringing a great deal of uncertainty to OSU medical students.
The negotiations come just five months after Ardent Health Services, which owns OSU Medical Center, agreed to sell the hospital for a nominal $5 million to a public trust to be set up by Oklahoma State University by June 30, 2009. The hospital, along with equipment and facilities, is valued between $140 million and $160 million, officials said.
The deal was expected to ensure the long-term stability of the primary teaching hospital for OSU's residency program. Under the agreement, OSU was charged with finding a partner firm to manage the hospital. But the school has been unable to do so, Calabrese said.
He said Integris was interested for a while, but that deal fell through two months ago.
"We're pursuing every viable option to secure the future of our residency programs," said OSU medical school spokeswoman Ellen Averill.
State Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, said OSU needs to have a firm residency arrangement by Sept. 15 to meet accreditation requirements and so residents will know they have a place to go next summer.
"It may provide OSU the stability it needs, but at a very high price," he said. The hospital may have to close if OSU moves its program because residents are the ones who provide the bulk of uncompensated care there, Adelson said.
In that case, the burden of an additional 34,000 emergency room visits and $50 million in uncompensated care each year will fall to the nearest hospitals, St. John Medical Center and Hillcrest Medical Center, he said.
"I think Ardent will do what it can to make sure the hospital stays open, but I'm not sure they can," Adelson said.
There is a possibility that OU-Tulsa residents could step in to prevent the hospital from closing, he said. "If that materializes, I'm a strong proponent," Adelson said.
Tulsa is the only metropolitan city in the country without a publicly supported hospital, he said.
"Whatever the result, without a publicly supported teaching hospital, we won't solve both the need for a stable medical education and the challenge of indigent care," he said.
In OSU's defense, Adelson said officials there never received the support they needed from the state Legislature to keep the hospital open.
Earl Denning, president and chief executive officer of Hillcrest HealthCare Systems and interim CEO of OSU Medical Center, wrote in an internal memo to employees that he had not been informed of any potential residency program move.
"I will note that OSU Medical School leadership has chosen not to address these issues directly with me or other members of your hospital leadership team," he wrote in the memo to address numerous rumors circulating among the hospital's 1,400 employees.
Denning noted that Ardent and OSU have a signed agreement through June 30, 2009, and that it provides for the residency program to remain at the OSU hospital through the end of the academic school year.
"However, it is my understanding that leadership from the medical school shared with St. Francis physicians that we are turning the hospital into a psychiatric and long-term acute care hospital," he wrote.
"This is false," Denning said in the memo. "OSU medical school leadership never asked us about this erroneous conclusion before they voiced this rumor."
Calabrese said he learned of OSU Medical Center's plans two weeks ago during a meeting of the hospital's medical executive committee. He said Dr. John Fernandes, president and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, said negotiations were under way and that the 132 residents would be placed at St. Francis Hospital on Yale Avenue and St. Francis Hospital South near 91st Street and U.S. 169.
"When I expressed my concern to him that this will close this hospital, he said, 'My responsibility is for the college,' 200a(unknown)" Calabrese said.
"This hospital has been in business 64 years. It has served the community well and trained almost 2,000 physicians through its post- graduate residency program, the majority of whom have stayed in the state of Oklahoma," he said.
St. Francis officials had not returned calls for comment by press time.
Kim Archer 581-8315
Originally published by KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer.
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