Seven physicians in a letter to Erlanger Chief Medical Officer Cy Huffman in February 2008 warned about an exodus of doctors from the public hospital and the dire financial consequences it could bring.
Erlanger has lost over $17 million this fiscal year. Hospital officials said the departure of physicians moving to other local hospitals has been a major factor.
The doctors said they were disappointed that Dr. Huffman had declined to meet with them on Feb. 16, citing the fact that Dr. Walter Puckett could not attend the meeting.
Drs. William Blalock, Walter Pew, T. David Gbadebo, John Golding, Alexander Stratienko, Steven Stubblefield and Michael Love cited a number of issues with Erlanger administration in the two-page letter.
They stated, "We repeat again our willingness to provide emergency on call services to patients presenting to Erlanger as we have been doing for many years and as we have been doing at all other area hospitals. We reject your unilateral change in cardiology on call obligations."
The letter also says, "Finally, actions such as yours lead us to conclude that there is a pattern of behavior by the Erlanger administration to chase private practice specialists away from Erlanger. Such has been the case with ophthalmologists, urologists, and now with cardiologists.
"If the objective of the Erlanger administration is to have a 'closed medical staff' with only employed or contracted physicians, it is succeeding. The price for such, however, is that private practice specialists are discouraged from bringing their well-insured patients to Erlanger.
"This is responsible for the 50 percent reduction in cardiac procedures at Erlanger over the last year and is the likely explanation for Erlanger's ongoing financial losses. If this pattern continues, Erlanger truly shall be a 'safety net hospital' for indigent patients only, which will find itself in a financially unsustainable position in the near future."