By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS May 5, 2006 Is it posturing? Is it positioning? Maybe its not that serious.
According to Dr. Hal Teitelbaum, Crystal Run Healthcares sudden announcement that its pulling physicians from Catskill Regional Medical Center is none of the above.
Sixty-some Crystal Run doctors have been on the medical staff at Catskill Regional some for as long as three years.
But around May 31, each doctor employed by Crystal Run will cease activities at the Harris facilities.
The physicians in Rock Hill and Liberty will no longer admit patients to Catskill Regionals two facilities.
They will no longer schedule surgeries, endoscopies, even births at Catskill Regional Medical Center.
And Teitelbaum, CEO of Crystal Run, said thats how it will remain until the hospital makes some major changes in patient care.
But Art Brien, CEO at Catskill Regional, doesnt see a need for change.
Were a hospital, were a non-profit organization; we get reviewed by everyone under the sun, he said. Our quality of care has never been found to be lacking.
Brien said he doubts the issues relate to patient care at all, pointing the finger back at Teitelbaum himself.
Maybe its a power struggle, he said. Maybe hed like to have more control at the hospital.
Brien said hospitals do sometimes have patients complain, and CRMC always looks into those issues.
But, he said, in the past few months there has been a barrage on the castle, with constant complaints coming straight from Crystal Run physicians (not, he noted, from the patients themselves).
Crystal Run doctors are not employed by Catskill Regional, but they have been credentialed by the hospital.
Those doctors have been doing what Teitelbaum calls reverse credentialing.
You wont find it in the dictionary, its a Hal Teitelbaum term, he said.
Essentially, Teitelbaum said his physicians have assessed the character of the hospitals ability to meet the needs of the patients the same thing the hospital will do to credential a doctor.
In doing so, Teitelbaum said those physicians have found the hospital to be woefully inept.
But complaints to that effect have gotten them nowhere, he noted.
We have expressed a variety of concerns regarding quality issues to hospital administration, to the medical staff, to the board of trustees directly, and ultimately, when we did not feel they were being dealt with satisfactorily, to the board of health, Teitelbaum said.
The issues are all now in the hands of the board of health, he said, and cannot be spelled out because of privacy issues as well as the status of the investigations.
But they are serious enough to cause a break in the relationship between the countys two largest healthcare providers.
For Catskill Regional Medical Center, which last year turned a profit for the first time in a long time, this will likely mean the loss of patients.
In the past 12 months, Crystal Run physicians have admitted more than 1,000 patients, in addition to scheduling surgeries and other procedures at Catskill Regional.
But rumor that this move is fueled by financial concerns, by unhappiness with competition or simply an attempt at positioning themselves are all unfounded, Teitelbaum said.
In fact, the decision to cut ties with Catskill Regional means Crystal Run will also have to terminate its dealings with the Center for Discovery, Achieve and New Hope for the time being.
Not because we want to, but because we have to, Teitelbaum noted.
Long-term care facilities have a higher rate of hospitalization than the general public, he said, and Crystal Run is currently looking into alternate ways to serve those particular organizations.
Were hopeful theyll be interested in continuing the relationship, he said.
And hes hopeful that one day Crystal Run will once again work with Catskill Regional.
From the time Crystal Run moved onto the Sullivan County healthcare scene, Teitelbaum said hes been a proponent of a relationship with the hospital.
I have had to admit to several of my colleagues that their skepticism was well-founded, Teitelbaum said.
Crystal Run is now directing patients to Orange Regional Medical Center although he said they wont leave Catskill Regional officially until the last patient being seen by a Crystal Run physician is discharged, even if that falls after the May 31 deadline.
Orange Regionals campuses, Horton and Arden Hill, are both located outside the Sullivan County border. But that doesnt mean Teitelbaums changed his mind about Sullivan County.
I feel there is a tremendous opportunity to provide great care in the inpatient and outpatient setting, Teitelbaum said. I look forward to a day when we can do that together.
Brien said he invited the Department of Health into Catskill Regional to meet with officals and find out what has been going on with Crystal Runs patients and they were in Harris Wednesday.
At press time, Brien was confident the department would make a clear decision that nothing is wrong with Catskill Regionals patient care.