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VOL. 125 | NO. 185 | Thursday, September 23, 2010

Docs Leave UTMG for Le Bonheur Partnership

By Tom Wilemon

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More than 100 pediatricians will be leaving UT Medical Group Inc. to join a new physician partnership formed by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The institutions believe the joint venture, UT Le Bonheur Pediatric Specialists, will allow them to better recruit faculty and doctors. But their gain means the city’s largest private practice group will become significantly smaller.

UT Medical Group currently has 365 doctors on its staff.

The new practice is slated to be in place by Jan. 1. It will be a not-for-profit joint venture between the hospital and the university. Neither institution currently has a physician practice under its umbrella.

“I think it combines these exquisite resources at Le Bonheur and the academic prowess of the university to bring together a whole new entity that can help children and families in Memphis and the region,” said Meri Armour, president of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

The specialties offered by the new partnership will range from pediatric heart surgery to pediatric neonatology. The clinics will be located inside Le Bonheur’s new $340 million hospital and its existing physician clinical space at 777 Washington Ave.

“Those facilities will continue and they will be enlarged as a result of this new venture with the university,” Armour said.

A search firm will be engaged to identify chief executive officer candidates to lead UT Le Bonheur Pediatric Specialists.

“We’re hoping it will be a physician, and we expect it will take us a while,” Armour said. “In the interim, we do have two interim co-directors who have been instrumental in helping us get this practice plan off the ground.”

The co-directors are Matt Love, senior vice president for planning and strategy at Le Bonheur, and Tim Masburn, the associate dean over finance and administration at UTHSC.

University Chancellor Dr. Steve Schwab said the alignment with the hospital made strategic sense.

“We see closer alignments with our health care partners across the state as an essential element in our ability to expand our educational offerings and increase our ability to serve the state and region,” Schwab said.

The alignment should also make patient care more seamless at the hospital, according to Armour.

“If you look at everything that is happening in health care reform today, I think what parents and patients want is really one integrated system of doctor and medical care providers all working from the same strategically aligned focus with the same set of resources and really cutting down on the hand-offs that happen all the time,” she said. “We really are on the same page. It’s going to be a whole lot more streamlined and easier for families.”

The neonatologists with UT Medical Group, who also have privileges at the newborn center at The Regional Medical Center at Memphis, will still be able to practice at the hospital, which is next door to Le Bonheur, Armour said.

UT Medical Group is the private group practice affiliated with UTHSC College of Medicine faculty.

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