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Hospital Ends ER Doctors' Contract

The Simi Valley facility concludes a 10-year pact amid an investigation of patient transfers. Officials say emergency services will continue.

September 27, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Simi Valley Hospital officials voted this week to replace the facility's nine emergency-room physicians, ending a 10-year contractual relationship on the heels of a yearlong state and federal investigation of the hospital's handling of patient transfers.

At an executive meeting Thursday, the hospital's board of directors decided against renewing a contract with the doctors who operate the hospital's emergency department.

The physicians are part of Equality Emergency Medical Group. Representatives for the group could not be reached for comment. But hospital administrators said Friday that emergency services would continue and that the quality of patient care would not be affected. The emergency-room physicians will stay on until a replacement medical group has been hired.

"The emergency room is open and we plan to continue being open 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Margaret R. Peterson, the hospital's president and chief executive. "Patient care will not be affected by this decision, it was a contractual matter."

Peterson declined to specify why the board ended the contract, or whether the move was connected to the hospital investigations, other than to say that the board "felt it was in the best interest of the hospital to find a medical group that has the infrastructure to support us as a growing institution."

Regulators from the state Department of Health Licensing and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have been reviewing operations at the hospital since September 2002, following complaints about the way it treated psychiatric patients, handled their transfers to other medical facilities and filled out paperwork.

Steve Chickering, manager for the hospital and community care branch in the federal agency's San Francisco regional office, said Simi Valley Hospital was originally found deficient in five areas, and on reinspection in August had cut that number to three. Chickering said the hospital had until next week to submit plans on how it intended to reach full compliance.

"We hold the hospital accountable to do whatever they need to do to ensure full compliance, whether that's a change of policy, procedure or personnel," he said.

Peterson said that the hospital was taking appropriate action regarding its policies on patient transfers.

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