Legislation to restructure the UA Healthcare Board of Directors with political appointees could have a devastating impact on patient care and medical education in Southern Arizona.
University of Arizona College of Medicine Dean Dr. Steve Goldschmid said Monday morning that more than a year-and-a-half of work on integrating University Medical Center and University Physicians Healthcare to better serve the UA College of Medicine could be reversed if the Arizona House of Representatives passes an amendment to HB 2067 and Gov. Jan Brewer signs the legislation.
In essence, the Legislature would strip oversight of UA Healthcare from the Arizona Board of Regents, and the Legislature and the governor would have authority to appoint members of the UA Healthcare Board of Directors, among other changes.
Speaking at a news conference in University Medical Center's DuVal Auditorium, Goldschmid said, "If we are not careful, this dire distraction could negatively affect patient care. I can assure you, if this bill passes, Arizona residents will quickly notice the impact as many faculty, staff, researchers, educators and administrators not only will leave the institution but may even leave the state."
Goldschmid called on "all parties involved to slow the process of passing this legislation, enter into a dialog, recognize the value of the physicians recruited to the UA and find some amicable resolution of the problems at hand."
UA Healthcare board member Steve Lynn said the board's work on the integrated organization has been done "for the greater good of the community" and to make the UA's health sciences organization "one of the best in the nation, if not the world. What this institution is about is teaching, about patient care, about health. That's what we intend UA Healthcare to be."
Lynn called on the entire UA Healthcare Board of Directors to set aside individual concerns and display selflessness, determination and sacrifice.
"There is no time for personal agendas to get in the way of what we are trying to accomplish," Lynn said. "Set aside individual concerns for the greater good of the integration of this institution and the preservation of an institution that not only saves lives but uncovers heroes every day."
Speaking for the College of Medicine's 14 clinical department heads, Dr. Steve Barker chairman of the UA Department of Anesthesiology, said the UA faculty-physicians provide nearly all of the physician care at UMC and University Physicians Hospital and various UA Healthcare clinics, as well as educate future doctors and engage in research that advances medical knowledge and brings millions of dollars to Arizona every year.
Barker said when medical faculty leave the UA, they often are recruited to other university-based medical schools that "have a unified academic strategy and vision and are working as one unit. The formation of UA Healthcare is such a unified vision. That's the direction we have been trying to go. We are firmly and unanimously committed to this vision."
Barker added, "Today we are on the verge of success. We simply cannot join the ranks of the nation's top academic health-care institutions unless we successfully integrate these three health-care components into one enterprise, one cohesive unit, with unified leadership and a common mission. We were really on the home stretch of successful integration as of about two weeks ago. We need to move forward, not backward, to complete integration."
Goldschmid said while he hopes no physicians will leave the UA, "I know there are people considering leaving this institution" because of the pending unraveling of UA Healthcare.
Goldschmid said he believes the legislation was being drafted for several weeks before its introduction into the Arizona Senate last week. He said the legislation was "absolutely a surprise," promoted by a small minority from the UA Healthcare board and leadership.