Conway Regional Considering Legal Action In Hospital Rivalry Case

Conway Regional Considering Legal Action In Hospital Rivalry Case
UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson

Representatives of Conway Regional Medical Center told lawmakers Monday that it's considering legal and legislative action to deal with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' contract with Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway.

UAMS' contract provides emergency room and orthopedic services at Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway.

"We feel like that the arrangement between the two, UAMS and Baptist, is fulfilling a business need and not a community need," Conway Regional Health System's Chief Development Officer Lori Ross told the members of the Arkansas Legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee Monday. "We have considered, and are considering, legal action."

The committee held the meeting to ask more questions about the contract, which has been criticized by Matt Troup, president and CEO of Conway Regional. He said the contract is unfair competition because UAMS, a taxpayer-supported teaching hospital, is helping to supply doctors to the crosstown rival, which started seeing patients in September 2016.

UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, who started in June, told the committee that the arrangement has been a benefit to the patients and Conway and the surrounding areas.

Since starting, the orthopedic surgeons have done more than 1,000 procedures at Baptist's Conway hospital. He said it generated $15 million.

But when Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, co-chair of the JPRC, asked how the $15 million was divided between Baptist and UAMS, Patterson said he wasn't sure.

"It's been represented to me that it’s a two-to-one split," Lowery said. "Baptist getting $10 million, UAMS $5 million."

"It might be in the ballpark," Patterson said. "The facility fees are always higher than the professional fees."

Patterson also told the lawmakers that UAMS relies on its clinical procedures to support its educational services. In its most recent fiscal year, UAMS clinical services generated $48.5 million.

"The money is transferred to the college to support the educational missions," Patterson said. Still, "it was not enough to cover the cost last year and UAMS lost $16 million."

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, co-chair of the JPRC, said she knows UAMS must offer services to generate money to fund its teaching. But she said she wants UAMS to collaborate with other providers.

"I don't want to see UAMS be aggressive and trying to run doctors out of business in private practice or hospitals out of business," she said.

Lowery said legislators have been discussing a law that would require UAMS to collaborate with any hospital that wants a similar partnership.

"We would call it 'any willing partner' legislation," he told Arkansas Business earlier this month. "That's the thing that we’re concerned about, is that [UAMS is] picking and choosing winners and losers on the services that they will collaborate on."

Patterson said UAMS is willing to collaborate with other providers, but Conway Regional never asked it to provide orthopedic services.

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