Glenwood Medical turnover part of U.S. trend
In what is part of a national trend, Glenwood Medical Associates has seen an unprecedented among of turnover in recent months.
More than a third of the independent medical practice’s employees are departing, including several bound for Valley View Hospital across the street.
Dr. Jason Collins decided to open his own practice, and took his physician assistant, Colleen Farnum, with him. Dr. Susan Inscore, Dr. Brett Hesse, and Dr. Christiaan Maurer left private practice to become full time hospitalists. Dr. Greg Feinsinger retired in February after 43 years in practice. Nurse practioner Sarah Oliver took a job at Columbine Home Health in her home area of Silt.
Individually, their plans wouldn’t be cause for alarm.
“None of the departures has been a surprise,” said Barbara Clarke, marketing and communications manager for GMA. “People somehow don’t expect professionals to make a personal choice.”
She acknowledged that change can be difficult for patients.
“It’s an emotional subject to lose your doctor,” she said.
For Sue Rollyson, the loss is a practical issue, too.
“I can’t think of any doctor that could even partially replace her,” she said of Inscore. “Who will partner with me on health journey?”
According to Clarke, GMA is actively recruiting and hiring, but internal medical doctors are hard to come by, particularly to come to Glenwood Springs.
“We deal with the high cost of living here and the lack of real estate inventory,” she said.
Although some patients suspect that the departures might be part of a regime change, Clarke countered the idea.
“It’s unfortunate that things are changing, but I don’t know why people see it as something sinister,” she said.
In fact, she said, it’s something that’s happening around the valley and around the country.
Dr. Robert Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a former Western Slope family doctor, agreed.
“It’s not just Glenwood Springs. It’s all across the United States,” he said.
The problem, he said, is an ever more complex regulatory environment.
“A medical practice is really a small business, and as you heap on complex rules and regulations, it can be very difficult for just you and a few partners to deal with it,” he said.
Having the help of a large organization like a hospital gives doctors an opportunity to spend more time with patients and less time with pencils.
“Our practices are founded on relationships. We love taking care of patients. We don’t love doing paperwork,” Wergin said.
While he understands the risk of burnout and the lure of fewer patients or better pay, Wergin hopes primary care physicians will choose to tough it out.
“Comprehensive, whole-person-based care is what could really improve health care in this country,” he said.
Tamaan Osbourne-Roberts, president of Colorado Medical Society, a primary care doctor turned hospitalist himself, thinks the system needs to change for that to happen. While he agreed that private practitioners bore the brunt of it, he sees doctors struggling across the board. He cited a 2013 study by Rand Health that showed double-digit dissatisfaction rates in nearly every field of health.
“There are a lot of pressures on doctors that have very little to do with taking care of patients,” he observed. “It is exceptionally challenging.”
Beyond regulatory headaches, Osbourne-Roberts believes the problem lies in a system that rewards quantity at the expense of quality.
“The reimbursement system has to change from volume to value,” he said. “At the end of the day I want my patients to be happy and healthy. The current system doesn’t let me do that. It’s hard to do any job that the best you can hope for is less failure.”
He thinks the impetus will have to come from the community itself.
“Ultimately, I would love to see patients that understand that they really do have the ability to advocate for changes to the system, so we can actually offer the type of care that they want and deserve,” he said.
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