Saturday, January 28, 2012

HenryMayo Hospital; that’s Where the Money Is!

Over the past two decades, access to healthcare for patients has become financially onerous, while the practice of medicine for physicians has become exceedingly difficult. Doctors and the public are caught in this chaos of spiraling upward costs and diminishing care, yet there is a slowly emerging link between this debacle and the one on Wall Street trickling down to Henry Mayo Hospital.
Statistically, this country contributes a higher percentage of Gross Domestic Product monies toward healthcare than any nation in the world, yet our ability to provide care to citizens is rated low, just ahead of Cuba (see a,b). Where is all this money going?

The infamous Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, and his response “because that’s where the money is” was classic recognition of the obvious (see c). In the latter part of the 20th century, shrewd business people realized healthcare, especially hospitals, was another perfect source other than Wall Street banking, to attain high salaries, outrageous bonuses, and golden retirement parachutes.

As powerful hospital lobbyists had greater influence on our Democratic and Republican representatives, and physician medical associations were kept busy with myriad legal hoops doctors had to jump through, a Willie Sutton-game plan was launched to takeover healthcare. This is what has trickled down to our community hospital and, as you have read in The West Ranch Beacon (WRB, 6/9/2011, 2/20/2011), created the ongoing conflict between physicians and the Administration.

An online article written in 2004, revealed the hospital industry game-plan “to decimate the independence of medical staff and take away physicians’ rights to place unfettered power and economic control over doctors in the hands of hospital administrators” (see d). This strategy has been launched over the past 4 years against Henry Mayo doctors.

How does this effect patient care? Most hospital admissions are paid by Medicare and allows them to make more money when stays are shorter. This is great incentive except when discharge decision-making has been wrenched away from physicians and placed in the hands of those where profit, not quality, is the primary motivator.

Hospital greed has overpowered experienced clinical judgement by your doctor and using faulty “criteria”, is forcing our elder seniors out of the acute care facilities before they are ready for discharge. Unfortunately, and statistically, many of these patients face greater pain, discomfort, institutionalization in nursing homes, and even re-admission.

Legally, hospitals have tried to transfer all responsibilities onto the backs of doctors. Too many times we have heard from Administration “ultimately, the physician is responsible for discharge.” Wisely, the hospital leaves no trails as they put notes and letters on the chart coercing discharge, yet later destroys those communications as “not part of the medical record.”

The hospital has recently become openly aggressive in pressing early patient discharge, not only with multiple phone calls daily to physicians, but giving letters to patients and family members stating they might be financially responsible for the hospital bill (even if they are on Medicare). Think about it: Your grandfather is in the hospital with a heart attack, and he and your grandmother are given a letter stating they might be responsible for the bill. Next: Your grandmother is in the hospital with a heart attack!

So, when members of the physician Medical Executive Committee fight back, the hospital and their legal team create “disruptive physician”, “corrective action”, and trumped up charges to convince the hospital Board of Directors these doctors are not worthy to remain on the Medical Staff (WRB 4/8/2011). The flagrant and gross conflict of interest within the hospital Board of Directors (WRB, 8/23/2011) buys their vote to complete the coup d’etat against your physician.

Bottom line (facetiously): They remove outspoken doctors, control discharges at the expense of our elder seniors, give poor quality care by shorting nursing staff and ancillary care, and run with the profits giving themselves higher salaries (remember, our CEO makes about $700,000), outrageous bonuses, and their golden parachute endorsed by the conflicted Board of Directors. This is why, we as a nation, spend more money on healthcare, but get little in return.

Many of us in Santa Clarita want our children and grandchildren to have the same, if not more opportunity than we had, but not stated this presidential election year is how healthcare is directly related to our ability as a nation to compete in the world marketplace.

Almost every competitive country in the world provides healthcare to their people, and since we don’t, many of our citizens face the residual foreclosure, bankruptcy, bill collectors, and homelessness. There is no solution yet, but part of the overall contributing problem is the Wall Street-mentality takeover of hospitals.

Realize, even as a bank robber, Willie Sutton never had bullets in his gun, nor did he ever harm or kill anyone during his crime spree. Unfortunately now, hospital greed is the gun filled with real bullets wielded by CEOs with a clearly defined game-plan that has doctors and patients in their crosshairs.

Gene Dorio, M.D.- Guest Commentary

Gene Dorio, M.D., is a local physician. His commentary represents his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with including the Medical Executive Committee and Medical Staff of Henry Mayo Hospital, or those of the West Ranch Beacon.