Saint Thomas loses 10 cardiologists to Centennial, VUMC

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 1:00am

A virtual physician exodus announced Monday will leave Saint Thomas Hospital�s cardiac unit minus 10 specialists, cutting its doctor roster by about 20 percent and down to 43.

The 10 physicians who make up Saint Thomas Cardiology Consultants (STCC) voted Oct. 18 to �amicably dissolve the group,� according to a statement.

Five of the cardiologists agreed to establish their practice at Centennial Medical Center, part of the TriStar Health System, while five others opted to join the staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

�The group was trying to come up with one plan that worked out for everybody, but as it turned out that just wasn�t reasonable,� STCC interim CEO Richard Kirkpatrick said. �I think the doctors just viewed the options at Centennial as offering some degree of flexibility that they hadn�t considered before. The move for the remaining physicians to Vanderbilt Medical Center will allow these doctors to practice in an academic medical setting.�

Kirkpatrick referred to the eight-year practice at Saint Thomas as �long and productive.� Currently, Saint Thomas is ranked as the No. 1 cardiac program in the state by HealthGrades, one of several national independent health care quality companies.

But the exit of STCC also follows the Page-Campbell Cardiology Group that finalized a move from Saint Thomas to Vanderbilt in July.

In the face of losing several key players, Saint Thomas President and CEO Les Donahue called the relocation �disappointing� and touted the remaining size of the hospital�s cardiac unit.

�At Saint Thomas, we are fortunate to have a large group of exemplary cardiologists in The Heart Group, as well as a remarkable model of cardiac care that has led to the superior results recently recognized by HealthGrades,� Donahue said in a statement. �It is only natural that other organizations would seek to emulate the model that is established at the Saint Thomas Heart Institute.�

The Heart Group consists of 24 cardiologists and comprises the largest portion of the remaining program along with a surgical team, Cardiovascular Surgery Associates.

Kirkpatrick estimates that 30 percent of STCC�s patient base will move with the doctors to Centennial and Vanderbilt. He said the practice has more than 63,000 individual patient charts.

�I think this is a real compliment to Centennial Medical Center and the TriStar division that cardiologists of this caliber would want to join this very successful program,� Centennial President and CEO Tom Herron said in an interview Monday.

The five STCC cardiologists will complete the move to Centennial by year�s end and grow the hospital�s cardiac unit from 10 to 15 physicians.

TriStar officials estimate the move initially will expand Centennial�s cardiac patient base by 40 percent.

The physicians headed to Vanderbilt will join 27 cardiologists on staff of the Heart and Vascular Institute.

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