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Despite announcements this week that Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University have ended their century-old partnership, signs emerged Thursday that the door remains open for reconciliation, if only by a crack.

Speaking with The Detroit News on Thursday afternoon, sources from the DMC and its for-profit owner, Tenet Healthcare Corp., said it’s possible the relationship could be repaired, despite a years-long erosion of trust.

The DMC/Tenet sources, who did not want to be named, said the DMC is still engaged in discussions with Wayne State University that are focused on maintaining care for patients.

Asked Thursday to confirm if talks are continuing, Matt Lockwood, director of communications for Wayne State, said: “I have no knowledge of that.”

Still, at least one WSU official earlier Thursday indicated a desire to keep talking.

“I just wish we could get past this, and I wish there could be some overture by somebody to sit down and reasonably work through it,” said Charles Shanley, vice dean of the WSU medical school and president and CEO of the University Physician Group. “All they’d have to do is say, ‘Go ahead, finish the negotiations, we’re essentially at the finish line.’ It’s just a matter of saying that they want it.”

Dallas-based Tenet and Wayne State have been in negotiations on a contract extension that would have kept doctors with the University Physician Group treating patients at DMC hospitals.

In public sparring this week, the university and the seven-hospital health system each said they were done with the partnership and blamed the other for ending the relationship.

On Wednesday, Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said he was blindsided by Tenet’s move to end negotiations and “dissolve” the partnership, beginning with faculty physicians. DMC CEO Anthony Tedeschi blamed the medical school, saying Wilson had threatened to end its clinical services contract on May 15 if they couldn’t resolve their differences.

The break-up could trigger tumultuous changes for Metro Detroit’s health care industry, patients and the university’s 300 doctors and medical school as they look for new partnerships. News of the separation was unsettling for residents and medical students who wondered how it would affect their training and futures.

For one Royal Oak student, it could mean selecting another medical school that made her an offer.

“She was leaning strongly towards Wayne, but this...stuff has thrown her into confusion, and she has about 24 hours to make up her mind,” the student’s father, Tom Regan, told The News on Thursday.

Shanley, of the WSU Physician Group, said the quality of patient care will not be affected by the discord, and life will go on as usual for doctors, residents and medical students until a transition plan can be agreed on.

He said doctors will continue to provide in-patient and out-patient services, specialty care and surgeries. The clinical services contract set to end on May 15 covers selected clinical services, such as on-call services to deal with trauma cases and emergencies. And WSU Physician Group doctors will continue to provide those until the DMC can come up with an alternative, he said.

“If they (DMC) don’t want to pay for the trauma call, we’re going to provide trauma call until they find a competent alternative, because we’re the ones who care about the patients in this community,” Shanley said. “We’re going to stay, we’re going to provide the care, and ultimately they’re going to have to pay for that because ... you can’t accept that kind of service without paying for it.

“They’re not going to be able to bring others in who are going to do it for free. We’re going to do it for free from a customer service and patient standpoint, until a transition plan is in place.

“This was not something we wanted, and we’re not going anywhere. So it should be pretty easy to put this (transition) together if its something that they want.”

Shanley said his own son is a medical student at Wayne State, and while he’s not concerned about the impact on patient care, he fears the dispute reflects badly on the medical school, the DMC and the city of Detroit.

“To have this kind of thing be the national face of Detroit or the medical school is incredibly disturbing and damaging,” he said.

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

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