WSU gives DMC ultimatum in doctor deal

The Detroit News

Detroit — Six months after agreeing on a contract extension for a long-term partnership, the Wayne State University School of Medicine has given the Detroit Medical Center an ultimatum to settle specifics no later than May 15 or risk dissolving the deal.

In a letter dated April 19 to Anthony Tedeschi, CEO of the DMC, WSU medical school dean Jack Sobel said the contract must be finalized or the partnership would cease.

“I am re-confirming our agreement to extend (for the second time) the contract negotiations for administrative and clinical professional services with the Detroit Medical Center/Tenet two weeks beyond the latest deadline of April 30, 2018,” Sobel said in the letter.

Sobel added, “if the negotiations and contract are not finalized by midnight May 15, 2018, elective and non-emergent clinical services provided by UPG will cease to be provided.”

Tedeschi responded with his own letter, calling it an “explicit threat to the Detroit Medical Center’s ability to deliver critical healthcare services to patients in Detroit.”

Ending the partnership, he wrote, “could leave DMC without critical services.”

“With this threat, DMC now finds itself in the position to explore alternative plans so that we can continue providing critical care to our patients uninterrupted,” Tedeschi wrote.

DMC and Wayne State had similarly tense negotiations before reaching an 18-month agreement in October 2016.

Negotiations started in July over doctor pay and the University Physician Group, which represents WSU faculty teaching medical students and provide the hospital system with one of the its largest sources of practicing physicians. This includes some 400 doctors, who provide medical, administrative and clinical services in its hospitals.

The DMC has said it wants to resolve a longstanding issue over how to pay WSU physicians better and wants the hospital, not the university, to become their employer of record. The hospital system said it wants to take over the physician group and work more closely with Wayne State.

But officials at Wayne State have been lobbying for what they say would be a more transformative alliance between the medical school and the DMC, with the hospital system becoming more of an academic partner rather than taking over the physician group.

Tedeschi describes DMC as the “foremost academic healthcare system in Detroit,” and wrote that it hopes to retain that stature.

In an April 20 memo provided by the DMC and separate from his letter, Tedeschi cited “fundamental challenges in the relationship,” specifically “the lack of external research funding for WSU’s University Physician’s Group” and Wayne State’s “consistent disparagement of DMC publicly,” but that the DMC has maintained “good faith negotiations” regardless. Tedeschi also cited “intensified rumors of (Wayne State’s) plans to partner with another medical institution other than DMC.”

If the relationship can’t be repaired, DMC said it would seek other options and would “begin formal discussions with national institutions of higher education.”

Matt Lockwood, a spokesman for Wayne State University, said in a statement Sunday that Wayne State is “working very hard on negotiations” and is “very hopeful” an agreement can be reached.

“We will do what we need to do to make sure that patients are taken care of,” Lockwood said. “Patients are our top priority, but we also need to reach an agreement.”

Five of the eight hospitals in Detroit city limits are DMC hospitals, per Data Driven Detroit.

Community activist Heaster Wheeler said Sunday he hoped the two sides could find common ground and continue the relationship on which Detroiters rely.

“I need Sinai-Grace to work, I need Hutzel Hospital to work,” Wheeler said. “Whatever it takes.”