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Analyst Considers What Drove Summa's ER Change

Nathan Kaufman
Kaufman Strategic Advisers

Summa Health System’s abrupt change in how it staffs its emergency services is still drawing speculation as to what happened. 

Nathan Kaufman a national health industry analyst based in California says it is not unheard of for a hospital group to replace a long-time contractor for its ER operations but it is uncommon.

“In most hospitals, sixty to seventy five percent of their admissions come through the emergency departments.  So it’s the front door of the hospital.  I don’t think that hospitals or health systems take these decisions lightly—to switch vendors.  So there must have been some contractual issue the parties couldn’t agree on.” 

Kaufman says negotiating impasses typically involve money—like a hospital’s willingness to pay ER contractors for treating indigent patients.  Or ER contract doctors participating in all insurance programs so that there aren’t some patients getting unexpected, and unexpectedly high, ER bills.

Kaufman stresses that while he does not know specifically what issues were involved with Summa and its former ER contractor, he is certain they had to be serious to break the 40-year relationship that had existed.