“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What should medical center be?

Last week we wrote about how the board and top management of Baptist St. Anthony’s Health System did not take salary cuts while the hospital laid off some 50 workers.
We have since heard that the hospital also approached doctors who take emergency call, sending a letter to them asking them to take a 20 percent pay cut. We are working on obtaining a copy of that letter.
Earlier this week, we also broke a story with ProNews 7 about how the Amarillo Area Foundation rejected Mayor Debra McCartt’s attempt to get the Harrington Regional Medical Center and AAF together to try to settle their differences.
About the only things that BSA and Northwest Texas Healthcare System agree on are that smoking is bad for you and they don’t want to be part of the HRMCI.
Last year, BSA launched a multipronged war against Northwest. The hospital rattled a saber by recruiting the highly regarded emergency physician group, placing a helicopter in Guymon, Okla., and making noises about seeking designation as a trauma center. BSA also spent thousands of dollars to build a new neonatal intensive care unit
No one openly made a case that Northwest was below par in either emergency care or neonatal intensive care. And it’s because they couldn’t.
Both of those services are well known in the region, not just Amarillo, to be excellent. Neonatal ICU was supported by Texas Tech University’s medical school.
The decision to launch this competition was irrational at best and mendacious at worst. And BSA is a nonprofit institution that gets tax breaks for being a responsible corporate member of the community.
The fact that Northwest is a for-profit isn’t a reason for the hammer-and-tongs competition. In fact, it’s the wrong thing to do.
McCartt did the right thing by trying to bring these two organizations to the table with a mediator. It brings to mind a wonderful quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin in the play and movie “1776”: “There is no idea so dangerous it can’t be talked about.”
Clearly something is amiss.
I can’t tell you what is wrong. If someone could, I’d love to know what it is. For a city that places such a premium on getting along, these breaches are a mystery.
As I understand the history of the medical center, those forward-looking folks 40 years ago wanted the medical center to be modeled after Texas Medical Center in Houston. But the big city’s medical center is structured in a quite different way from Amarillo’s. First, none of the hospitals has a seat on the TMC board. In addition, the TMC runs the infrastructure: the common laundry, maintenance of the roads, lawns and the common utility system that provides steam and air conditioning.
The heavyweights at the table in Houston, without a seat at the board, at least don’t have that sandbox in which to fight, were they inclined to fight at all.
The list of institutions that are part of TMC reads like a Who’s Who in medical care. Who hasn’t heard of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which is part of the University of Texas? Or, St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Memorial Hermann or the Methodist Hospital?
People can accuse me of being a lot of things, but unrealistic isn’t one of them. What Amarillo has isn’t what Houston has. But it had the potential to emulate the model.
Hindsight is 20-20, of course.
I don’t think it’s too late to regroup and try again.
Texas Tech is doing its part by buttressing its services and academic medicine capabilities.
But the lack of leadership, the vacuum of a vision that is embraced by the entire medical community and the region, is evident.
Who will step up and openly ask the key question for Amarillo? Although a friend posed this to me, I’ll put it in the open: What is a medical center?
And, I’ll add my question. What vision does Amarillo have for a medical center and who is to lead the way toward that vision?
Now, who will step up and answer these questions?