A long – and, at times, contentious – search for unified hospitalist services at DCH Health System hospitals is over.
DCH officials have announced that a joint contract has been awarded to companies both in and outside of Alabama to provide hospitalist services at the health system’s hospitals in Northport and Tuscaloosa.
The doctors to provide the hospitalist services will come from Capstone Health Services Foundation, which is affiliated with University Medical Center and the current employer of University Hospitalist Group physicians, while the staffing and management will be handled by IN Compass Health Inc. of Alpharetta, Georgia.
“The combination of Capstone and IN Compass will be a strong partner with DCH in providing quality medical care and ensuring patient satisfaction at the hospitals,” said Bryan Kindred, president and CEO of the DCH Health System, in announcing the selection. “Partnering with these two health care leaders to staff and manage both DCH Regional Medical Center and Northport Medical Center helps ensure quality, continuity and consistency of care, since the same providers, using the same care models, will be delivering care at both locations.
“This is the right thing for our patients and the community.”
The contract for these companies will be effective Oct. 1, 2021, at Northport Medical Center and Nov. 1, 2021, at DCH Regional Medical Center.
A hospitalist is a doctor who provides care from the time of hospital admission until discharge for patients who either do not have a regular physician or whose regular physician does not practice at the hospital.
Hospitalists are medical specialists who usually complete their residency in internal medicine or family medicine and then focus on providing care to hospital patients, DCH officials said.
Currently, DCH relies on separate hospitalist service providers for its Northport and Tuscaloosa hospitals.
Northport-based Pinnacle Physician Group LLP provides hospitalist services mainly at Northport Medical Center, while University Hospitalist Group – established by the University of Alabama’s University Medical Center – provides services primarily at DCH Regional Medical Center.
In January, when DCH announced it would be seeking bids from companies in an effort to unify the hospitalist services at the Tuscaloosa and Northport facilities, Pinnacle cried foul.
Pinnacle not only questioned DCH’s commitment to local doctors, noting that 10 of Pinnacle’s 11 physicians have lived in the Tuscaloosa area for more than a decade – the lone exception being a Birmingham resident – it also questioned DCH’s commitment to racial diversity.
In an opinion column published in the University of Alabama’s newspaper, the Crimson White, the chief operating officer of Pinnacle Physician Group invoked ex-Gov. George Wallace’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” in questioning DCH’s motives in considering its options for a unified hospitalist service.
“Although DCH resides in a city that is 50% non-white, no racial minority has occupied the position of chief executive officer, chief operations officer, chief medical officer, chief nursing officer, chief financial officer, vice president of medical affairs or general counsel in at least 40 years,” the COO said. “Yes, the DCH board of directors has one Black member now, and it usually has had one through the years. But having one Black member on a nine-member board, when viewed through the lens of the demographic diversity of Tuscaloosa and West Alabama, is clearly tokenism.
Andy North, the vice president of marketing and communications for DCH Health System, denied these accusations and said the goal of seeking bids for hospitalist services was to improve the quality of care for all of its patients.
“Our priority is delivering quality care for our patients,” North said. “The decision to revisit our contract for a hospitalist management company is driven by our commitment to doing the right thing for our patients and our community.”
University Hospitalist Group, which currently provides hospital medicine services at DCH Regional Medical Center, operates under Capstone, an affiliate foundation of the University of Alabama and part of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences that operates University Medical Center.
Capstone’s bid for services included a partnership with IN Compass Health to provide operational oversight and expertise while managing the day-to-day operations and quality and care metrics of the hospitalist program.
IN Compass also will work with Capstone in the recruitment, selection and hiring of physicians who will work within the DCH hospitalist program.
The selection of Capstone and IN Compass was made after what DCH described as “a rigorous, objective evaluation process” conducted by hospital management with expertise from PYA, a nationally recognized consulting group that specializes in coordinating and evaluating the responses in the formal bid, or request for proposal, process.
“Partnering with IN Compass will allow Capstone Health Services Foundation to collectively offer DCH local and national knowledge along with the best practices of a leading medical center and a leading hospitalist management company,” said Dr. Richard Friend, dean of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences. “We are pleased to expand our relationship with DCH and work together to elevate care for the citizens of West Alabama.”
Reach Jason Morton at [email protected].