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Whether it's good or bad news for the community and the medical center that Baptist St. Anthony's Health System’s half owner, CHRISTUS Health, seeks to sell its interest in the local facilities depends, of course, on the buyer.
But the move offers the possibility that the leadership in Amarillo and at Harrington Regional Medical Center Inc. could have enough input to right some of the wrongs that BSA has perpetrated on the community. By way of review:
· When this writer was with the Amarillo Globe-News, he wrote about the war that BSA waged against Dr. Bill Barnhill and the late Dr. Robert Higgins over their interest in what was then Foundation Surgical Hospital (now owned by BSA). BSA tried to remove these physicians from the provider network. In January 2005, Judge John Board issued a temporary restraining order against BSA because, Board heard evidence that led him to conclude that the two doctors would prevail at trial and that was the basis for the TRO.
· As we reported in our Oct. 5, 2006 edition, there were serious questions about whether BSA met its charity care requirements under state law for 2002, 2003 and 2004.
· The Barnhill-Higgins situation, and perhaps BSA’s exclusive arrangement with Blue Cross while the BSA CEO sat on the Blue Cross board, led to an antitrust investigation, which we reported in 2008. And a settlement with the Texas attorney general followed.
· BSA has a take-no-prisoners attitude that ill serves the community, trying to edge Northwest Texas Healthcare System out of the neonatal care and trauma services. The result is a duplication of services that goes beyond the two hospitals. We have too many beds and too many CTs and MRIs in town, and that drives up the costs of medical care here. Cooperation is far better than competition for health and medical care services and anyone who says different doesn’t understand health economics. The free-market argument about health and medical care is just plain wrong.
CHRISTUS has not garnered rave reviews in other communities. In particular, its purchase of St. Vincent’s Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe has stirred emotions. Imposing the Roman Catholic directives on reproductive services didn’t sit well with parts of the Santa Fe community. And as recently as Wednesday, a move on consolidating oncology services caused some serious questions to be raised.
A day later, on Thursday, Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, as part of its ongoing coverage of problems with autopsies, published a report of another CHRISTUS situation in Texas. For an organization claiming to be steeped in Christian values, the behavior of the CHRISTUS hospitals seems questionable at best.
Let’s hope that a community planning effort similar to the one that established HRMCI can help bring coordination and cooperation to the hospital community so everyone will benefit.