February 18, 2010

Wheaton executives see hope, but doctors remain skeptial

Was the meeting legitimate?

That's the question following Tuesday's well-publicized meeting between Wheaton-Franciscan executives and 10 local doctors to discuss concerns about Racine's primary health care provider.

Doctors who are part of a group of 50 to 55 physicians considering a split from Wheaton called the meeting a PR event that did little to address their concerns. They said Wheaton chose who could attend the meeting, and only one member of their group was invited.

"The press conference with (All Saints President Ken) Buser was a farce," one doctor wrote. "None of those physicians are in the group of 50. They were hand-picked by the administration."

But Buser said executives were "encouraged" by the meeting.

"All Saints leaders are encouraged by the spirit of cooperation at the meeting with the group of physicians in Racine," he said. "They came out of the meeting very engaged and ready to work together to resolve issues. We are very hopeful because we all want the same thing, and that's the best possible care for our patients."

Buser and the executives have a way to go to convince at least some doctors to stay. One doctor skeptical of Wheaton's administration described the meeting as "the first shot in a long battle."

They noted not all of Wheaton's approximately 130 doctors are interested in leaving. For example, pediatricians at All Saints make good money and work reasonable hours, giving them little reason to leave, they said.

But surgeons and other specialists have seen drastic pay cuts in recent years as caseloads have dropped. One doctor blamed the decline on Wheaton's efforts to funnel business to its new $89.6 million hospital in Franklin, which opened in 2008.

Specialists are losing patients with health insurance and seeing caseloads pile up with the uninsured, the doctor said. While it's important to treat all patients equally, the doctor said, the hospital as a business can't survive without patients who have a mix of income and insurance sources.

"They have to figure out a way to get people with insurance to come in," they said.

And while Tuesday's meeting looked good for TV cameras, the doctor added, Wheaton is still facing a significant problem. Discontent among Wheaton's doctors has grown quickly. Internal surveys that saw 90 percent satisfactory ratings from doctors five years ago are now at just 14 percent, they said.

[Note: Ballentine called to correct the survey numbers. She said Wheaton's survey showed 85 percent of its doctors were very or somewhat satisfied in 2005, compared to 69 percent in 2009. The doctor's numbers referred to a percentile ranking that didn't specifically measure physician satisfaction.]

While All Saints can likely placate 80 to 90 of its doctors, the remaining group of 40 to 50 doctors remains committed to leaving, they said. At least a dozen have already decided to go, and more may soon follow, they said.

"You've got to think outside of the box to solve these problems," the doctor said. "That's why we're frustrated. They (executives) won't think outside the box."


  1. The role of the Journal Times attempted cover up should be investigated. I've never seen such flagrant corruption from a newspaper publication.

  2. There was a report out a couple of months back that in the five southeaster Wisconsin counties, St. Marys is the highest costing hospital. If the doctors aren't getting the money, then the administraters must. Another case of those not doing anything taking all the money.
    When the Doctors leave Buser will blame them for any increase in costs. Get rid of the overhead(Busers cronies) and serve the people.
    Bring the billing back from Carol Mills Ill. so us patients can find out whats wrong with the bills, now. It should not take over two weeks for payment t o be posted, or then rebilled.

  3. Ain't that something how the Journal Times rolled right over and starting licking its master's hand? How do people like that even walk down the street knowing that they are contributing to the misery of thousands of Racine residents? Anything for a buck, anything. How much are Buser and Wheaton going to contribute to lying John's campaign to keep Racine a one hospital town?

  4. Today's JT headline was that Wheaton was going to resolve billing. They have had 5 years to fix billing and have done little to improve things. Until there is action, not just words, I don't think anyone believes the management anymore.

    The only ones left in town that don't see that management is the problem is the Wheaton management.

  5. Wheaton management and the Journal Times collaborated on the media stunt aka meeting. JT was the only press in the room. Wheaton wanted to have the photograph of all of them working together to project leadership and make a statement that they have everything under control.

    Doctors were hand picked to be sympathetic to management.

    The whole thing was a scam, and we're not falling for it. They tried to pull the wool over our eyes and quite frankly it is insulting that they thought this fake meeting and photo op would put to rest the outrage. It is an act of stunning arrogance on the part of Wheaton management and the Journal Times and displays the total lack of respect they have for the intelligence of the community.

    We shouldn't accept this betrayal of the public trust by the Journal Times and Wheaton management.

  6. As an independent health care provider in Racine, I have little sympathy for anyone who chooses to be employed and then whines when they don't like the terms of their employment. There is a cost to the "guaranteed paycheck" that comes from being employed and in a group. Having the employer change the terms in the middle of a contract is a legitimate issue however.

    Not every specialty can survive on its own, but there are primary care physicians in private practice. Dr's Goodrich, Mataczynski, Martini and others find a way to "do it on their own" so I don't see why others can't also.

    The challenge is for the surgical and specialists who rely on the group for their referrals. Lack of them makes it very hard to survive (ala Dr. Malinowski).

    And I don't know where these doctors plan to all move in short order. They may find some acceptable space to use, but that and staffing (let alone administration) will be a huge issue. I wish them well.

    The doctors at WF are fine, their infrastructure is a nightmare. When my staff tries to get our patients seen for an urgent issue, its a 30 minute phone call to do so. Even when it is the patient's own physician that we're trying to get them in to see.

    There's a reason that Dr. Zell at Swift care is busy. She gets patients in and out for their urgent care issues, and her billing services are accurate and prompt.

    I had hoped that Aurora's presence would have helped WF get their act together with competition, but that hasn't been the case.

    The losers here? Our citizens.

    The winners? None.

    John Warren, OD

  7. More like Dr. Zell would be great! But I think WFH would real try to screw them up. They will need to admit patients to a hospital and be able to work with other Docs. I do not think WFH will cooperate!

  8. I've paid a visit or two to Doctor Martini myself.

  9. Some one please give us the names of the 10 to 12 Drs, that are planning to leave so I can make contact and follow them to wherever they set up practic.

  10. "She said Wheaton's survey showed 85 percent of its doctors were very or somewhat satisfied in 2005, compared to 69 percent in 2009"

    Now that is hilarious. The PR person is amazing. They are highlighting their 16% decline in satisfaction....not even satisfaction though. I'd like to see the breakdown of Very Satisfied from 2005 and Very Satisfied in 2009. Dare I say it might be a different story? I think so!

    Highlighting the fact that two thirds of your doctors kinda like their jobs doesn't speak highly of the organization.

  11. Wheaten Execs see hope. What the hell are they supposed to say "My bad"?

  12. Great comments from John Warren (except Dr. Goodrich joined Aurora)...GO INDEPENDENT BUSINESS! Eye Care, Dr. Zell, Physical Therapy, Radiology, etc. You have a choice! I guarantee you almost ANY Racine private practice will give you better care from the moment you walk in, to your discharge and billing.

  13. I wish we had more private practices, but those men and ladies are struggling against the big boys and the insurance deals the big boys get.

  14. New tagline for Wheaton

    Wheaton - Our doctors are somewhat satisfied and you will be too.

    Stop on by for a mediocre performance and a billing experience that will last a lifetime....literally.

  15. Ihope those physicians who leave will email the Racine Post and let us know where they are going.

    I didn't think the meeting was going to have any great outcome. It's like throwing a thimble of water on a forest fire.

  16. The experiences I have had with the current batch of Dr's has been miserable - they have no idea how to conduct a complete physical. They think a physical is reading blood work only. And if you have to go to the emergency room or take someone there - bring a book or two. you'll be able to get through them in the amount of time you'll be there.

  17. Anonymous @ 3:22

    LOL! Perfect!

  18. Wheaton - In addition to prompt care, we're now offering a new service - Idontcare. We have physicians and staff standing by to give you the best Idontcare in the state. To visit an Idontcare physician, simply go to the emergency room where you can relax for ours in our new green plastic chairs. At Wheaton, our motto is: If you have to wait, wait in style. What's the rush? A doctor will eventually see you but with seats this comfortable, you may never want to leave.

    And if you act now, we'll throw in a subscription to our own newspaper, the Journal Times.

  19. A word of advice to the 10 doctors hand picked by Ken Buser... YOU ARE BEING USED! It's a PR stunt! Why was the Journal Times photographer there?????? Is it any wonder why JT is "soft balling" this issue and taking Wheaton's side?

    What he is doing is trying to divide and conquer the doctors. It a well known management tactic to get your way (a tactic Mr Buser has used in the past.). DONT LET HIM GET AWAY WITH IT! JT quoted the administration as describing the prior meeting with the doctors as "cordial". If it were so "cordial", then why aren't all the doctors included in the current meeting? For him to say he is going to meet with the other doctors individually to "discuss their concerns" is just an excuse for him once again to use fear and intimidation.

  20. Anyone know if there any truth to the rumor that Ken Buser is attending the Dickert campaign fundraising event to proactively negotiate a discount for city Haz-Mat services at WFHC, knowing full well how toxic the atmosphere is there???

  21. "They noted not all of Wheaton's approximately 130 doctors are interested in leaving. For example, pediatricians at All Saints make good money and work reasonable hours, giving them little reason to leave, they said."

    Uh...paging Dr. Jennifer Thomas? Oh, right. Gone.

  22. I think the system at All Saints is what the problem is. just moving two people doesn't solve the problem. IT'S THE SYSTEM that's causing the problems not the doctors. Most hospitals have their share of problems but it seems All Saint leads the pack. Where or how does it make sense sending the billing jobs out of state and costing jobs to be lost.