OMC vows full ER staff on July 1

PESI to dissolve as new group takes over

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center administration has promised that the hospital’s emergency department will be fully staffed by credentialed emergency services providers come July 1.

Some have their doubts that the change from Peninsula Emergency Services, Inc. (PESI) to Sound Physicians can be done that quickly.

“They said that everything was all set with Sound Physicians and that they would be able to staff the emergency department come July 1 … I bought it up at the meeting on June 15 that this was not possible and they said they were assured by Sound Physicians it would,” said Dr. Frank Rosenbloom, a hospitalist with OMC who does not work in the emergency department.

“It’s wishful thinking,” Rosenbloom said.

OMC announced in a press release on Friday that provider shifts have filled up through July and shifts will continue to be filled through the summer, as recruiting continues, quashing rumors that the new emergency department services provider, Sound Physicians, had backed out of its contract due to its inability to staff the emergency department.

“Many of the current ED providers are being offered the opportunity to continue working in OMC’s Emergency Department. They have been offered locums tenens [temporary] positions. Incumbent providers will have the opportunity to continue working in OMC’s Emergency Department while reviewing the option of signing a long-term employment contract with Sound Physicians,” reads the release.

Emergency Department Director Dr. Lusana Schutz said that as of Thursday none of the ED providers had received contract proposals to consider.

The majority of the doctors currently working in the emergency department were formerly with Peninsula Emergency Services, Inc. (PESI) the emergency services provider that OMC had been with for nearly 35 years and which was formed to provide doctors for OMC’s emergency room.

“PESI was started in the mid-80s by local physicians who were employed by a large emergency department staffing group, at that time called Northwest Emergency Physicians (NEP), now TeamHealth,” said Dr. James Wallace, executive director for PESI.

“Both they and the hospital were unhappy with the arrangement-high cost to OMC, low pay to the doctors, and not much control over schedule, so they bought out the contract from NEP and started PESI, as a simple, locally-run company with the sole focus on recruiting and retaining emergency physicians to work at OMC,” he added.

OMC did the billing and other adminstrative services, Wallace said in the email; these are services that OMC officials have said will be done by Sound Physicians.

Due to the ending of its relationship and the commitment of the majority of doctors to remain with PESI rather than apply to Sound Physicians, the company has elected to dissolve.

“As PESI exists only for the purpose of staffing the OMC ED, and no longer has the contract to carry out that mission, it will be dissolved at the end of this month,” Wallace said.

OMC announced to the medical community it would end its relationship with PESI on June 8. That sent shock waves through the hospital, some said, because the doctors had not been told there was any likelihood of this happening.

“Up until May, things didn’t seem like they would be any different. In March, we met with Darryl [Wolfe] and said ‘Hey we’re up for renewal’ and he said, ‘Yeah, no problem, we will work out the finer details,’” Schutz said.

“In April, an allegation arose against one of the emergency medicine providers that contracts with our group (PESI), at that time it was brought to our attention by the administration that the allegation has been made and they asked us to remove him from the schedule which we did promptly and we followed their lead in the things they needed to do with the investigation because they made it very clear that they were in charge of the investigation,” Schutz said.

On May 30, PESI members said that their impression was that they had reached a verbal agreement with Wolfe for a two-year contract renewal, and they knew no differently until June 8.

“The reasons they provided for urgently removing PESI do not seem to justify such a rushed decision, leaving not nearly enough time for a transition of this magnitude,” Schutz said.

OMC CEO Darryl Wolfe has said that it was the investigation that led to the sudden change in emergency department services at OMC.

“We cannot discuss the criminal cases in detail as they are open and active cases. However, these criminal investigations are what initially prompted the regulatory visits to OMC. There was sufficient concern resulting from the regulatory agency investigations, that a change in medical group leadership needed to be made imminently,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said the provider being investigated is not being recruited by Sound Physicians.

The decision to make the change from PESI to Sound Physicians was first discussed in a public forum June 15.

According to OMC Board Chair John Nutter, there were one-to-one meetings with board members and Wolfe, where the action was discussed.

Wolfe later explained that the board did not need to go through a traditional bid process to make this change and explained that there will be regular reviews of the contract with Sound Physicians.

“OMC needed to make a change on a shortened timeframe due to circumstances involved. OMC is not legally required to seek bids for services contracts,” Wolfe said.

“We will be reviewing Sound’s performance in the next 12 months and at that time, we will decide whether to continue with Sound as our partner or proceed with giving 180-day notice in order to adjust the course with a new partner as deemed necessary and prudent.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]

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