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What has Atrium Health proposed?

A radically different model for anesthesia care. Currently, one anesthesiologist oversees no more than four CRNAs in providing services in Atrium Health Health operating rooms. Under the proposed model, anesthesiologists would supervise many more CRNAs in order to decrease the number of anesthesiologists necessary to service of Atrium Health’s locations.  SAC physicians would see their supervisory load increase by 50% or more.  Additionally, this new model would also have CRNAs performing certain procedures at some sites without an anesthesiologist present. These and other changes would certainly affect the ability to respond to patient emergencies, provide proper oversight and respond to patients’ needs pre-operatively, during procedures and post-operatively.

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Why is this an issue?

We have consistently sought to collaborate with Atrium Health to address rising healthcare costs  while ensuring a high standard of care. The proposed patient care model jeopardizes patient safety in a way that we were unwilling to accept.

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Why is SAC bringing this to light?

As physicians, we place a high value on patients who are well-informed and engaged about their care. The public should be aware of any plans or decisions that directly affect patient safety and well-being.

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Who will be my anesthesiologist if SAC is gone?

Atrium Health used questionable business tactics to attempt to oust SAC from the market and is attempting to recruit new non-Charlotte and non-North Carolina anesthesiologists to provide anesthesia services at Atrium Health facilities. Interestingly, this dangerous patient care model was developed by the very same non-North Carolina anesthesiologist who formed the medical group that will be providing anesthesia at area hospitals once SAC is gone.

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Who is MEDNAX?

MEDNAX is a national medical group whose affiliated medical practices are the leading providers of neonatal, anesthesia, radiology, maternal-fetal and pediatric medical and surgical subspecialty services. Founded by physicians, the company provides management and administrative services to medical practices such as SAC that enable them to operate more efficiently, while preserving the physicians’ control over medical standards and care decisions. MEDNAX’s relationship with SAC has been beneficial in terms of delivering improved patient outcomes, practice proficiency and healthcare cost savings.

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What happened between Atrium Health and SAC?

For nearly four decades, SAC has worked closely with Atrium to build a comprehensive, patient-focused surgical program that we believe to be the finest in the region. The partnership has delivered great benefits to the hundreds of thousands of patients and to the respective organizations. Atrium terminated its contract with SAC as part of a concerted effort to significantly reduce the role for physician anesthesiologists in the patient care process. SAC’s physicians opposed this change out of concern for protecting patient safety. The practice leaders had only begun to examine Atrium’s new approach and share concerns when Atrium abruptly cut off the discussions and terminated the contracts. Both MEDNAX and SAC were surprised at the termination notices. SAC is not opposed to change; in fact, the practice has been leading change across the industry for years. However, SAC wants change done the right way and the safe way.

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Why did Atrium make this change?

Atrium Health’s leaders have announced a drive to achieve $300 million in savings system-wide under its “Destination 2020” strategic plan. The effort includes cutting labor costs and cost savings in key operational areas, including but not limited to, anesthesiology. Meanwhile, at least 10 Atrium senior executives earn more than $1 million annually in salary and benefits. The system’s rationale has been that such amounts are necessary to attract and retain top executive leadership.

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What is the optimal resolution?

Retaining the services of the current SAC physicians would represent the best path forward in preserving the momentum it has developed in delivering the highest possible quality anesthesia services to both the area’s surgeons and their patients. Both MEDNAX and SAC remain hopeful that we can resolve this matter and continue providing care to our valued patients for many years to come.

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Will the situation result in a disruption of services?

It is difficult to imagine how a substitute group could cover all of the sites and specialties that are required of SAC’s surgical program in less than four months. The existing contract will expire June 30, 2018. In the meantime, it is business as usual. SAC physicians are continuing to provide the quality of care before, during and after surgery, that the patients of Charlotte depend upon.

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Sign the Petition

Do you oppose the aggressive and questionable business practices of large hospital systems like Atrium Health, which may be jeopardizing the health and well-being of patients, physicians and our communities? If so, act now by signing the petition.

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