Well, you're not going to be surprised to know that Palmetto Health is not a BIT pleased that Providence Hospital and Lexington Medical Center have cut a deal on open-heart and left it out. Palmetto Health issued this statement at 4:37 this afternoon, after the other two parties made their big announcement:
Feb. 25, 2009
Statement by Charles D. Beaman, Jr., CEO, Palmetto Health
I have great respect for the dedicated professionals associated with Lexington Medical Center and Providence Hospital. However, I am surprised and very disappointed that the leaders of those hospitals excluded Palmetto Health when they negotiated a private agreement regarding health care delivery for the Midlands of South Carolina.
Palmetto Health is the largest provider of health care in the area. We have been urging collaboration and cooperation from the beginning.
Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why a private agreement regarding health care delivery would be negotiated and announced that excludes the region’s largest hospital system. Our goal is to provide the best, most efficient services to the families of central South Carolina. It is simply not possible to develop a regional health care delivery plan that excludes Palmetto Health.
Here are just a few of the questions left unresolved by the private agreement negotiated by only two of the region’s hospitals:
- Will Lexington Medical Center agree to support Palmetto Health’s plan to build Parkridge Hospital in the Irmo area? That plan was approved by state officials in August of 2007. The community involved is eager to have a hospital in their area. But progress has been blocked for nearly two years by legal maneuvers.
- Will we have sufficient trauma coverage for our region? If open heart surgery must be provided in a hospital that has one of the busiest ERs in the area, why not consider providing trauma services in that same ER?
- Will we have adequate behavioral health services for our region? Right now Palmetto Health is the only inpatient provider for unfunded patients. As the state continues to cut services for inpatients and outpatients, our regional hospitals need to work together.
- Where are the oversight and the spirit of cooperation to provide care for the uninsured and underinsured who are showing up in growing numbers at the region’s only safety-net hospital – Palmetto Health Richland? Is open heart surgery the only service worth sharing?
At Palmetto Health, we remain willing to cooperate and collaborate with other hospital systems to create a true regional health care delivery plan. And we urge our colleagues in the health care delivery system to focus on the full range of services needed in these difficult economic times.
In the mean time, our friends in Lexington County can rest assured we will continue to support them in their specialized heart care needs. Just last week, a patient from Lexington County had his heart blockage removed within 19 minutes of his arrival at Palmetto Health Heart Hospital after being transported there by Lexington County EMS. We remain ready and able to accommodate patients needing our care.
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In those four bulleted items, Chuck Beaman sets out the biggest beefs that Palmetto Health has long held in terms of getting the short end of the stick on Midlands health care — it treats the most indigent patients, and it maintains the expensive trauma services that the other hospitals don't have to provide because IT does. That's why it was so important to Palmetto Richland to develop it's expanded open-heart program, because it brings in revenue it needs to offset those expenses.
That question, "Is open heart surgery the only service worth sharing?" is about as loaded as a question gets. Lexington has argued all along that it needed open heart because it was getting such a disproportionate share of acute cardiac cases coming into its ER. In that case, the other hospitals have said, why don't you beef up ER — which would COST money, rather than bringing it in the way open-heart does. Now, Providence isn't saying that, and is getting $15 million, and Palmetto Health is feeling very isolated and neglected.
Note that the release doesn't promise to keep opposing Lexington's CON request on open-heart, but says it will be happy to continue serving those patients at the Richland campus, which one of course reads as meaning the same thing.
Bottom line: Two of the combatants have made peace. But the war's not over.