Exodus of doctors from Frisbie hospital, patients explode HCA management
ROCHESTER – Since the acquisition in 2020 of the non-profit Frisbie Memorial Hospital by for-profit HCA Healthcare, 12 of 14 affiliated primary care physicians have left Frisbie and patients who lose their physicians are angry and frustrated.
The doctors explained that those who left Frisbie made the decision as individuals.
“It wasn’t something that was done as a group,” said Dr. Deborah Harrigan. “Based on what they saw, each doctor made this decision on their own. “
Harrigan, a primary care physician, has resigned and will begin a new position in August at the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury.
She said what happened at Rochester Community Hospital was a perfect storm of events that made her see a lack of support for medical staff, in a situation she believed unlikely to change.
“They are for profit and I respect the fact that they have to make money,” Harrigan said. “However, what I see is that they are working to serve their shareholders, and that is more important to them than what is good for our communities.”
The hospital responds
In an interview last week, Frisbie CEO and Interim Chairman Matt Larkin confirmed the exodus of general practitioners.
“Yes, it has happened and we are working to make sure we can support the hospital with local coverage as we actively recruit new staff,” Larkin said last week. “It’s not a RIF (reduction in strength). Sometimes when an organization changes administration, we can see attrition. These doctors who have left are fantastic, and we hope that as they go of our reorganization, some will be able to return. Some of them will stay there and others may leave the region.
Frisbie Memorial Hospital, being part of HCA Health, has grown from a not-for-profit community hospital to a for-profit company that operates hospitals in the US and UK. In New Hampshire, HCA also operates Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Parkland Medical Center in Derry.
Larkin said Frisbie’s goal as he reconstructs the practices is for some of the doctors who leave to take a look at what they’re doing and want to come back. He said five to six practices are affected by the departure of doctors. He said Frisbie is looking to help any patients who might be concerned about coverage.
A prepared statement sent from Frisbie on Monday afternoon said “HCA Healthcare’s acquisition of Frisbie Memorial Hospital in 2020 gave the facility, which risked being unable to serve the community, to have a stronger financial footing to build on its legacy of service to the Rochester community. While the acquisition was complicated because it took place weeks before the pandemic has changed the health sector and impacted our community in ways no one could have imagined, HCA Healthcare has invested over $ 25 million to improve patient care over the past year (some of these investments are detailed in the links below as examples of our commitment to invest in this community). “
Leaving doctor: “We ended up without medical assistants”
Harrigan said that when HCA took over the business, the company started cutting back on doctors and support staff, and many people left because wages were better elsewhere.
“When the pandemic first happened they didn’t fire anyone, but in October they laid off people, two primary care doctors, a specialist and a social worker,” Harrigan said. In addition, many leadership positions have opened and they have chosen not to fill them. We lost many PAs when they found out they could make an extra $ 6-8 an hour at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. Now we have found ourselves without administrative support and without medical assistants. This was not going to change and it was getting harder and harder to do our job as responsible physicians. “
Harrigan said 10,000 patients will be deprived of their family doctor.
“Some of these people are fragile and unable to defend themselves,” Harrigan said. “We serve patients not only in Rochester, but in all of the surrounding areas, including Barrington and Farmington. We tried to advocate for them, but we were trying to talk to a limited company.”
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OB / GYN Dr Deborah Mueller left Frisbie after 15 years to take up a post at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, but she said the circumstances of her departure were somewhat different, related in a minor way to HCA.
Mueller said she wanted to make changes to her contract, but was told that was not possible because contracts had already been negotiated with HCA, before the company actually acquired the hospital.
“I decided I didn’t want to make any more deliveries,” Mueller said. “I had a conversation with the management of HCA and was told that the contracts had been signed and that I could not change anything. I had offered to stay with this change as the hospital had already lost two doctors. OB / GYN, a third had indicated their intention to leave and hospitals had hired replacements. “
A locum doctor is a doctor on temporary duty, hired on a temporary basis to fill vacant positions.
Mueller said she was very happy at Huggins where she is only a gynecologist.
“I have had a wonderful career with Frisbie,” she said. “There are a lot of leadership changes at Frisbie. Some are improvements, some are not. They couldn’t meet my needs so I left.
In their statement to Foster’s, Frisbie officials said they were determined to fill the vacancies.
“It is difficult to have vacancies among our healthcare workforce, especially when the healthcare sector as a whole is facing a shortage of qualified doctors and nurses,” the Frisbie statement said. “Frisbie Memorial Hospital strives to fill recent vacancies to ensure that care is available for all patients. We have already started hiring new primary care physicians to complement our existing physicians and are actively recruiting more. While change can be difficult for any organization, we remain firmly committed to being a vital part of the Rochester community and meeting the needs of our patients for years to come. ”
Patients unhappy with HCA
Patients are not happy and say they were not only taken by surprise, but now feel like they have been left behind. They blame HCA, not their doctors.
Jackie Cilley, a former senator and state representative who lives in Barrington, was a long-time patient of Dr Harrigan.
“As a resident of Barrington, I had a wide field to choose a primary care physician,” Cilley said. “Certainly Rochester, Dover and Portsmouth, even Exeter, are easily switchable for quality healthcare. In addition to the competence and approach to medical care of a doctor that I took into account when making my decision years ago, I also took into account the health network, such as the hospital to which this doctor was affiliated. Therefore, about 30 years ago, I chose the primary care practice affiliated with Frisbie Hospital. I was impressed with my doctor’s willingness to work in partnership for my healthcare and also appreciated the community Although due to retirements or because a doctor left the area, i ‘ve had to change doctors several times over the years, I have stayed in the practice for the main reasons I chose it in the first place. That is to say until now. “
Cilley said that since the acquisition of Frisbie by HCA, there have been subtle changes that have turned into much larger and disturbing impacts.
“The staff were downsized and there seemed to be a bit of tension on the part of those who stayed,” she said. “The Barrington walk-in practice was suddenly closed with little to no warning to area residents. The final blow for me personally is that my highly respected and knowledgeable primary care physician has left the office and there seems to be no one in line to take his place. Worse yet, it looks like all the other doctors in the office have already left or are planning to leave in the coming weeks. As an older patient with underlying health issues, this leaves me both frustrated and vulnerable. I am particularly concerned about the continuity of care.
“It is particularly troubling to me that as a central health center for Rochester and surrounding communities, the Frisbie Network has failed to reach out to community members to engage them in a conversation about the need for the one of the ongoing changes. or to solicit feedback to help these changes better meet the needs of patients in the area, ”Cilley said. “It’s hard not to see these changes as being driven by profits rather than the real health care needs of the community.”
Cilley said she would no longer stay in the practice she had been in for so many years.
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Rochester resident Desiree Crossley said that Appledore, her group of doctors affiliated with Frisbie, had sent letters advising patients whose doctors would be leaving their practices.
“So far we know that two of our family doctors – each of whom have cared for our family members for over 15 years – are absent,” Crossley said in an email to Foster’s. “I appreciate the relationships and trust that I have built with my doctors and I was very disappointed to learn of their departure. My plan is to follow them for as long as possible for me to do so.”
“It’s not ideal and, for me, speaks to the lack of transparency in our health system as a whole,” Crossley said. “The general tone of the employees I spoke with was sorry. They have indicated that they feel bad about leaving the community in need, but the situation since the acquisition has become untenable.”
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