Imagine my dismay when I received a notice from Adventist Health Partners that my long-time (think twenty-five years) physician was “retiring” from practice, and I should make an appointment with some Jeff person I’d never met. I’ve been Margaret Pfister’s patient since I moved to the suburbs in the late eighties, but we actually met when I was a med student at Northwestern and she was the chief resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology. My daughters have been her patients for over a decade as well. I knew that if Margaret were retiring, she would have told us personally.
I could tell by the clumsy wording of the letter that someone (an administrator, perhaps?) thought that Margaret’s patients could simply be co-opted into another practice. But it doesn’t work that way. Women choosing an OB/Gyne are among the most educated of all consumers. We have to be. If we are loyal to our hairdressers, imagine how we feel about the person doing our pap smears.
Here’s a big secret in the medical community: gynecologists tend to be the weak link in surgical services. As an anesthesiologist, I’m often asked for referrals and I’m hard pressed to come up with names. I’ve spent twenty-seven years in the operating room and I can easily say there are a handful of gynecologists that I would trust to do surgery on me. Margaret happens to be one of them. So I set about try to find out what the heck was going on.
First I contacted the office. Pam, Margaret’s long-time receptionist, told me to contact Margaret directly. So I did.
The long and the short of it is this: Margaret sold her practice to Adventist Health Partners two years ago in October, with the understanding that she would renew her contract after two years. Only AHP didn’t renew it. There was a thirty mile restrictive covenant. She was not allowed to discuss anything with her patients. She’s out of a job in the Chicago area. She has practiced at Hinsdale Hospital for over thirty years. Her patients are expected to simply start seeing some guy who occupies the office that Margaret vacated.
I realize there are usually at least two sides to every story, so I did some investigating. I contacted a friend who is high up in the nursing administration at Hinsdale. She was surprised, knew nothing about it, and told me that many of her nurse friends are patients of Margaret’s. I contacted a friend who is a physician on staff at HInsdale. He said that the strong-arm tactics of AHP are legendary. He used the word “evil”.
So I decided to do my part for Margaret by writing a letter to the President and CEO of Hinsdale Hospital and to the CEO of Adventist Health Partners in support of Margaret Pfister, MD. I am appalled at their treatment of her, and at the way they have treated her patients.
“Both my parents had surgery at Hinsdale Hospital. I even had surgery at Hinsdale years ago. My sister was a patient just last year. My daughter was a candy striper a long time ago. I received my yearly mammogram at the outpatient facility. But I’m done with your hospital. This was a terrible decision—maybe it wasn’t only yours, but the buck stops somewhere. I am laying it at your door.”
Interestingly, my group hired three physicians and a CRNA from Hinsdale in the last few years. I’ve heard business is not thriving. I suspect this type of decision making is taking its toll in other areas as well.