By Dan Sorenson –
TMC Expands Medical Expertise
Affiliates With Mayo Clinic, Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Tucson Medical Center is expanding its resources with two new alliances – contracting with Phoenix Children’s Hospital and joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network – while remaining Tucson’s sole locally owned hospital.
“We are collaborating and cooperating with these institutions that are considered the gold standard,” said TMC spokeswoman Kimberly Romo.
“The Mayo (relationship) in a nutshell is giving doctors access to the Mayo expertise so they can essentially get a second opinion for their patients without their patients having to go up to Phoenix. We’re trying to keep people here at home, allowing patients to get the best quality care that they can right here in Tucson.”
“I think every (physician) has had a tough case where they want a second opinion,” said Dr. Rick Anderson, TMC chief medical officer. “A lot of this is for those physicians when they want a second opinion. I think it really brings another level of expertise. And there is a certain halo effect. I had surgery at the Mayo Clinic when I lived in Illinois – so I know the feeling.”
The Mayo Clinic, founded in Rochester, Minn., in 1889, is known for tackling tough medical cases and for ground-breaking research. It is said to be the first and largest nonprofit medical group practice in the world. It also has facilities in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Jacksonville, Fla. Mayo employs more than 3,800 physicians and scientists and has a related healthcare staff of 50,900.
As part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, TMC medical staff will have ready access to Mayo’s broad and deep expertise. But there are no plans to have Mayo staff on site at TMC – or for TMC staffers to become employees of Mayo, Anderson said.
The Phoenix Children’s Hospital alliance actually will involve a physical presence in Tucson, Anderson said. “They won’t be driving down from Phoenix to cover our hospital. They will be physicians that Phoenix Children’s employs – but they will actually be living here in Tucson covering our pediatric in-patients, as well as our pediatric intensive care unit,” he said.
TMC for Children’s physical facility includes 44 private medical/surgical patient rooms and 12 private pediatric intensive care rooms. The TMC pediatrics emergency department is considered the busiest in the region, seeing an average of 30,000 kids and admitting 700 patients a year.
Phoenix Children’s offers 75 pediatric specialties, including some Anderson said are not available or scarce at TMC or elsewhere in Tucson.
Anderson said an example of a gap in Tucson’s current pediatric specialties would be “a metabolic genetic pediatrician who works with high-risk kids – kids with genetic defects and metabolic disorders. That’s one thing that we don’t have a lot of here. Pediatric neurosurgery is something we struggle with in town. Some of the neurosurgeons do pediatric cases – but some of the high-end pediatric surgery leaves town for that,” he said. Another gap area is pediatric endocrinology, which provides treatment for kids with diabetes and other hormonal issues.
Anderson said the contract with Phoenix Children’s Hospital does not replace Tucson pediatric specialists – particularly TMC’s long-standing relationship with UA specialists.
“We’re asking our community partners to help us identify those areas where we can fill some of those gaps,” Anderson said. “We don’t want to break our partnership with Banner-University Medical Center. We want to keep kids in Tucson.
“If there’s a specialist at Banner-University Medical Center that keeps kids in Tucson rather than shipping them up to Phoenix Children’s, we’re going to use those specialists. We still want to continue that relationship and have some of their specialists come over here. Infectious diseases comes over here right now, gastroenterology comes over here. That’s going to continue. We don’t want to disrupt that at all.”
Anderson said Phoenix Children’s pediatric hospitalists – hospital-based physicians specializing in the day-to-day management of care of in-patients – will take over that service at TMC. In recent years TMC has not been in the practice of employing hospitalists, but rather contracting those services. “None of the hospitalists or intensivists will have outpatient practices, it will be solely in-patient,” Anderson said.
Anderson said these new alliances will have no effect on the current medical hierarchy or administrative operations of TMC. “We’re bringing expertise while still maintaining control,” he said. Under the leadership of CEO and President Judy Rich, TMC “is really bucking the trend nationally of hospitals like us folding into larger organizations.”