AFP unveils complaint letter from Memorial doctors

Several Memorial Health System physicians penned a letter to the hospital’s board of trustees in December expressing their dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in the hospital’s administration.

The doctors – who didn’t sign the letter – said that they represented 14 medical specialties and held different responsibilities within the system. The 22 doctors who signed the letter are just a fraction of the 850 physicians who work at Memorial.

The letter complains that the hospital’s administration was only interested in hiring doctors to work there – not in cooperating physicians.

The letter preceeded a decision to increase former hospital CEO Larry McEvoy’s pay by $$120,000, from $520,000 a year to $640,000 a year.

The letter says the administration treats physicians and patients as “comodoties” and that the staff wasn’t “valued for their experience and expertise in running their own practices.”

“The physician groups now employed by MHS came from practices that were not self-sustaining and therefore represent a financial drain on the health system,” the letter said. “The current administration has painted a picture for the Board of Trustees that does not reflect most physicians’ perspective.”

The letter was made public today by the Colorado chapter of the conservative enterprise advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, led by former congressional candidate and Chamber vice president Jeff Crank.

AFP has been actively protesting former Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy’s severance package, which totaled more than $1 million in salary and vacation pay as well as a company car and $20,000 to look for a new job.

The Colorado Springs City Council also did not favor the severance package and fired the hospital board of trustees last week and placed the payment package under legal review.

The city attorney will deliver an opinion on May 16 about whether the package can be adjusted.

AFP is now asking City Council to also launch an inquiry into the physician’s complaints. The group wants to know who among hospital leadership knew about the letter and when they knew about it.

This “critical piece of information doesn’t appear to have been more widely shared with people ostensibly in charge of the city-owned enterprise,” AFP said in a release today.

Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome said it was no secret that some hospital employees were dissatisfied with the administration.

“I think people know that the some people on the staff are unhappy,” he said. “We have a lot of changes going on here, and some people don’t like the changes. I think they’ve been very transparent about it.”

Further, he said it was time to move on from the controversy that surrounded McEvoy’s severance package and the dismissal of the Board of Trustees.

“This is a time to move forward, not dwell on the past,” said the statement from Memorial’s administration. “Memorial is under new leadership with an interim CEO and new Board of Trustees, and our commitment is to ensure that the anticipated transition to University of Colorado Health goes smoothly. Memorial is optimistic about the future, and we see this as a legacy moment in our history. We will continue to focus on making sure Memorial stays strong and healthy during this time of change.”

Apparently, the memo was shared with representatives of the doctor’s group and at least one board member, the press release said. It’s unknown if the memo was shared with the rest of the board or with members of City Council.

“There are questions here that go well beyond just the legality of the severance deal,” Crank said in the release. “We won’t know why things went this badly wrong, or be able to restore public trust in these institutions, until we have more insight into whether the trustees were acting alone, or whether they were getting a nod and a wink from others in city leadership.”

Below is the text of the physicians letter circulated by AFP.

CONSENSUS STATEMENT TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR MEMORIAL HEALTH SYSTEM

FROM MEMBERS OF THE INDEPENDENT MEDICAL STAFF

On November 1, 2011, a group of 22 physicians from the MHS medical staff met with two Board of Trustees members to express their concerns about the current administration of the health system. Fourteen medical specialties were represented through these physicians, including GI, Cardiology, Pediatrics, Neurosurgery, Pathology, Radiology, Urology, Anesthesia, Ob-Gyn, Orthopedics, Oncology, Internal Medicine, Family Practice, and General Surgery.

This group of physicians included several former Chiefs of Staff and several members of the current Physician Leadership Team and Strategic Decision Council at MHS, as well as a number of physicians who have long-term practices in the community. Some of the physicians also have privileges at Penrose, but most do not. Several group representatives state that they are either actively engaging in discussion with, or have been asked to engage in discussions with, Penrose Health System.

The thematic summary includes the following items:

1. Lack of trust in current administration to deal fairly with physicians and to follow through on commitments;

2. Lack of confidence in current administration to operate the Health System competently and to remove barriers to good patient care, ease of physician practice and good business practices;

3. That PLT and the SDC members not elected at-large do not represent the majority of physicians;

4. That physicians are not valued for their experience and expertise in running their own practices;

5. That the current administration, in spite of lip service to the contrary, is only interested in employment models for physicians;

6. That the health system treats physicians and patients as commodities;

7. That physician groups now employed by MHS came from practices that were not self-sustaining and therefore represent a financial drain on the health system;

8. That the current administration has painted a picture for the Board of Trustees that does not reflect most physicians’ perspective;

9. That not only individual groups of physicians but also the Medical Executive Committee have been marginalized by the current administration;

10. That results of the Press-Ganey Physician Satisfaction Survey conducted in April 2011 have not been adequately addressed or remedied;

11. That the falling volumes and marginal financial performance is in large part due to the above current realities at the health system and will continue to drive away physicians and their patients;

12. That these issues are especially noteworthy because of their consistency among the majority of physicians present.

Therefore, these issues compel the independent medical staff to deliver this resolution to the Board of Trustees for Memorial Health System.

Resolution: No confidence vote for current administration. The independent medical staff at MHS does not support any lease proposal that does not include replacing current administration.

Respectfully submitted,

Members of the Independent Medical Staff of Memorial Health System, Colorado Springs, Colorado

December 2011