KDMC ending partnership with local ER physician group

2017-01-06 | The Daily Independent

Jan. 06--ASHLAND -- New physicians will occupy the King's Daughters Medical Center emergency wing this month after the hospital ended a 31-year partnership with a local, independent group.

TeamHealth, a national hospital staffing firm headquartered in Tennessee, will replace Ashland Emergency Medical Associates at midnight on Jan. 15.

King's Daughters spokesman Tom Dearing said the hospital's decision to terminate its contract with the local group was based primarily on a desire to expedite waiting times and boost patient satisfaction scores. The emergency department will add nurse practitioners and a triage nurse who will determine waiting times based on an assessment of the patient's need upon check-in.

Two physicians currently part of the independent Ashland association and four previous members will join the TeamHealth staff, Dearing said.

Dr. Alexander T. Krivchenia, the longest-tenured member of the group, said he's "not happy with the choices that the hospital has made."

The local group of physicians has staffed the King's Daughters emergency department since 1985. It was comprised of 16 doctors at its peak, and now has 10. The group will officially disband after its final shift.

King's Daughters "made a mistake" by "letting go of so many residency trained, board certified doctors," Krivchenia said.

All physicians in the Ashland group are specifically trained to work in emergency departments. "That's been our standard for many, many years," said Krivchenia, who joined the independent group 28 years ago.

Krivchenia acknowledged the staff struggled to raise patient satisfaction scores in recent years but felt they've "done exceptionally well by the community." He said the emergency staff has handled about 58,000 annual visits over the past four years.

Last July, the group received a six-months notice. They'd attempted to negotiate with the hospital and had sent counter proposals, but in August were informed TeamHealth would take over the emergency department.

Krivchenia, who was raised in West Virginia and has only practiced in Ashland since he completed his residency, said he's hopeful the new emergency physicians will continue to provide quality care to the community.

"I see that as my emergency department that I basically helped build," he said. "It would sadden me if things don't go well."

Dr. Brett Jarell, a six-year member of the Ashland group, said he felt the hospital's decision is "emblematic of health care in general."

"Health care is kind of going in a direction toward these all-encompassing medical systems," he said.

"[The independent group] is an old way of organizing and has become almost unheard of," said Jarrell, noting that the group's board is elected by its members and has autonomous power in hiring and personnel decisions. Physicians in the group were held to high standards, Jarrell said, including the mandate they are board certified in emergency medicine.

Jarrell, a Huntington native, said he'll likely work part-time in other regional hospitals and focus more on a biotech company of which he has vested interest. He said he'll miss the pace of working consistently in the emergency department, and likened it to working in dining service.

"It's like working in a restaurant. You don't know how many people will show up, don't know if you have all the staff or materials you need, but you make due with what you have and hope you can pat yourself on the back at the end of the night," he said.

Working in emergency care "is a privilege," Jarrell added.

"I see people, often on the worst day of their life," he said. "We have to try and manage it and provide them with a positive outlook. That can be difficult, but it can also be incredibly rewarding."

Dearing said King's Daughters "appreciates the dedication, care and service" the Ashland Emergency Medical Associates has provided for the community over the past 31 years.

He said the hospital is looking forward to growing its relationship with TeamHealth, which staffs King's Daughters Urgent Care Center in Portsmouth, Ohio, in Ashland.

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aadkins@dailyindependent.com