Palomar Health

Palomar Health CEO Responds to Doctors' Criticism of Controversial Business Move

Doctors and nurses are upset over decision to change providers of emergency personnel

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The president and CEO of Palomar Health is firing back at accusations being made by some of the health-care provider's doctors that a recent business decision could impact the quality of care at its two North County hospitals.

“I resent that fact because it’s simply not true,” Diane Hansen said.

Palomar Health recently changed the company that provides its hospitals in Escondido and Poway with emergency personnel, including doctors.

A number of Palomar's staff are concerned about a business decision they said could reduce the number of doctors making rounds at hospitals, reports NBC 7's Artie Ojeda.

A company called Vituity has provided staffing for Palomar Health for more than 40 years. Beginning in August, Emergent Medical Associates will be the new provider.

Hansen said the change was made for several reasons. She said it’s a best practice to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) from other providers every few years. That hasn’t been the case at Palomar for a while and said it was time to "make it a fair process."

“The decision was made in order to improve quality, to improve our patient experience and patient satisfaction, and, quite honestly, to improve affordability,” Hansen said.

But Palomar’s chief of staff, Dr. Sabiha Pasha, told NBC 7 that the change will reduce staffing, which will increase doctor's workload and, at some point, reduce the quality of care.

“Someone’s going to suffer, and it’s going to be the patient," Pasha said. "Mistakes will be made. Physicians are going to be tired. This is the formula for physician burnout."

Doctors are now required to sign on with Emergent Medical Associates if they want to continue to work with Palomar Health. Many feel they were blindsided and have only been given a few days to make a decision.

One of those doctors choosing not to stay is Casey Buitenhuis.

“To see all of the physicians and staff devalued this way, it’s just atrocious,” said Buitenhuis, who’s been a pediatric emergency physician with Palomar for seven years.

Buitenhuis' refusal to sign on with the new provider would effectively end his career with Palomar Health.

“This has been extraordinarily heartbreaking for me," Buitenhuis said. "I have no confidence in this administration. I cannot faithfully do my duties as a physician with this administration running it the way it currently is."

Meanwhile, at a morning rally in front of Palomar Medical Center in Poway, one of Palomar Health’s board members, John Clark, expressed his dissatisfaction.

“I voted no because I see no value in doing it at all," Clark said. "These physicians have just come off the worst year of their life, fighting COVID, risking their lives. Our administration turns around and puts a knife in their backs financially. That is just beyond belief."

For now, more than 100 doctors must decide whether to sign on with the new provider. As of Monday, only about one-third have verbally agreed to stay.

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