PORT ANGELES — Sound Physicians, which became the emergency services provider at Olympic Medical Center on Oct. 4, is recruiting permanent physicians while keeping the department fully staffed with temporary providers, according to officials.
OMC entered into a contract with Sound Physicians of Tacoma in July after suddenly dropping its long-time emergency department partner Peninsula Emergency Services Inc., of Port Angeles.
A provision of the contract allowed OMC to end the contract if it found an emergency provider it preferred over Sound Physicians.
“We believe Sound Physicians combines physician leadership, clinical processes, technology, and analytics to constantly and measurably improve clinical care,” according to Bobby Beeman, OMC spokesperson, on Friday.
“Further, Sound Physicians recognizes the importance of the hospital’s workplace culture and is committed to supporting the hospital’s goals in that area,” Beeman said.
In June emergency providers and staff, some of who had previously worked for Sound Physicians voiced concerns about Sound Physicians taking over the department noting that it had an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.
“They (Sound Physicians) are simply the epitome of what is wrong with private equity-led healthcare, and it is despicable that OMC, a public hospital, is turning to them,” Dr. Olivia Haelsloop said.
Haelsloop was one of several doctors who had worked in the OMC emergency department with PESI and resigned at the end of June prior to the transition in the emergency department.
“Olympic Medical Center and Sound Physicians are aligned in the goal of delivering exceptional emergency medicine to our community,” Beeman said. “Sound Physicians has committed to improving patient care, safety, and satisfaction as well as streamlining the flow of patients through the emergency department.”
Aaron Possin, a registered nurse in the emergency department, said wait times have gone down and the department is fully staffed.
“It takes about 14 minutes now for a patient to be seen by a doctor,” Possin said.
“Our wait times now, compared to prior to Sound Physicians coming in, have decreased by 50 minutes per patient,” he said Friday.
“The number of patients actually seen and treated in the ER has increased, though, and our volumes have been high, but our left-without-being-seen rate has dropped dramatically.
Beeman said that wait times have improved over the past few months.
”We recognize that any patient who experiences a longer than desired wait time is going to be dissatisfied,” she said.
“We absolutely look to continue improving throughput in the emergency department and look forward to collaborating with Sound Physicians.”
When the transition in the emergency department occurred providers through PESI were encouraged to sign on to contacts with Sound Physicians.
Most of those physicians left, and those who stayed at OMC are on locum ( temporary ) contracts, which are still in effect today as Sound Physicians works to recruit more permanent providers.
“The current emergency department provider team is a combination of both legacy providers (PESI) and additional emergency medicine providers,” Beeman said.
”Emergency Department providers will be working on locums contracts while Sound Physicians recruits permanent providers among local and national candidates,” she added.
Reporters were unable to reach Sound Physicians for comment on its hiring process but did hear from Possin that the emergency department is busy with interviews.
“I can tell you we are inundated now with interviews,” he said.
“The ER leadership team and I are on interview panels for Sound Physicians constantly and interview providers who want to come here,” Possin said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.