West Penn Allegheny pressured to restart talks with Highmark
A group of top doctors at West Penn Allegheny Health System is demanding that the board of directors fires the interim firm managing the system and return to negotiations with health insurer Highmark Inc., the Tribune-Review has learned.
The doctors, who include more than a dozen leaders of the system's medical and surgical departments, have signed a letter that was to be delivered this week to board Chairman Jack Isherwood expressing their growing dissatisfaction with the failed negotiations. Complaints have been raised individually or in small groups during town hall meetings and private discussions with board officials, several physicians told the Trib.
The doctors are particularly frustrated with turnaround consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, which the doctors believe is responsible for the recent breakdown in talks between Highmark and West Penn Allegheny. In their letter, the doctors state they want the board to get rid of the consultants immediately.
“There's been quite a lot of unhappiness,” said one of the physician leaders, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used. “There is nobody supportive of the interim management.”
The doctors also said in the letter they want representation in any future negotiations between West Penn Allegheny and Highmark.
If their demands aren't met, the physicians told the Trib that the next step will be to deliver the board and management a “no-confidence” vote.
“The physicians don't want to send the message that they hate the board,” one physician explained. “The purpose is to apply enough pressure on them to act.”
Isherwood could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
West Penn Allegheny spokeswoman Kelly Sorice said Isherwood had not received any letter from system-wide physician leadership.
“It would be strange to receive such a letter, given that four of our (medical department) chairmen are members of the board of directors and actively participated in the board's unanimous vote to hold Highmark accountable for its breach of the affiliation agreement,” Sorice said.
The physicians who spoke to the Trib said the doctors who are members of the board have not been directly involved in the negotiations with Highmark.
Dr. Keith Ghezzi, a principal at the consulting firm and the system's interim president, is responsible for a series of ill-planned decisions about the future of the five-hospital system, the sources said. Those decisions include pulling out of the deal with Highmark and accusing the insurer of a breach in the terms of the proposed $475 million acquisition. The consultants have fired several long-time staffers, the physicians said.
The physician leaders told the Trib that Ghezzi and his team have not acted in the best interest of the system and are making decisions simply to make money.
“Their self-interest supersedes the community's interest,” one of the physician leaders said. “It's a problem when you don't have skin in the game. We've had a lot more value extracted than created.”
Ghezzi, who was appointed interim CEO in November, could not be reached for comment.
Sorice said West Penn Allegheny's board hired Alvarez & Marsal at the urging of Highmark and its board.
“A&M is now implementing the turnaround plan at West Penn Allegheny that Highmark endorsed and submitted to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department,” she said. “A&M is meeting, or exceeding, the expectations that were set for them.”
Sorice emphasized West Penn Allegheny's position that board officials are willing to renew talks with Highmark. She said Highmark has not agreed to any such discussions.
Isherwood recently reached out to Highmark board chairman Robert Baum to ask when discussions could restart, Sorice said, but he never heard back from Baum. Baum could not be reached for comment.
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2014 has been among deadliest for the world’s airline industry
- Residents, search panel refine profile of Pittsburgh police chief
- $24M water filter project at Aspinwall treatment plant nears kickoff
- 1 intruder killed, other shot and wounded in Carrick home invasion
- Thousands relish thrill of Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix
- Moon Area board reconfigures elementary buildings, votes again to close school and explore merging with Cornell
- Kaufman Foundation awards research grants to schools, including Pitt, CMU
- Pittsburgh police officers reprimanded in Banksville restaurant robbery
- Newsmaker: Charles H. “Chip” Dougherty Jr.
- Newsmaker: Margo B. Holm
- Newsmaker: Mary Jo Slater