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WSU, DMC agree to 6-month extension

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — In an apparent thawing of relations, the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University ended a standoff that threatened to break up a nearly 100-year-old partnership and agreed to a six-month extension to determine if the two institutions can continue offering medical services together.

The agreement will continue contracts for clinical and administrative services provided to DMC by the Wayne State University Physician Group for that six months, the university and health system announced Monday.

During the extension, a 14-member joint advisory committee comprised of DMC and WSUPG leaders will work to develop a plan covering clinical and administrative services provided to DMC by WSUPG physicians as well as collaboration on hospital and clinic services, according to a joint statement issued by both sides Monday afternoon.

But should the committee be unsuccessful in reaching an understanding after 90 days, the remaining time extension will allow time for a transition to new providers for those shared services, which would prevent any disruption in patient care, the joint statement said.

The turnaround come days after public sparring last week in which the university and seven-hospital health system each said they were done with the partnership and blamed the other for ending the relationship.

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson issued a statement Monday saying the “first 90 days of the extension would be used to explore "a new working model for the two institutions.”

"If successful, this new framework will be implemented during the succeeding 90-day period. If they are unable to reach an agreement on a new path forward, they will use the second 90-day period to transition coverage of selected services," he said.

This is being done, according to WSU and the DMC, to avoid disrupting patient care in the future.

Dr. Jack Sobel, chairman of the WSUPG’s board of directors and dean of the WSU School of Medicine, also said the extension stabilizes the relationship between the DMC and university.

“We believe this approach can result in an arrangement in the best interests of all parties, especially our patients,” he said in a statement.

Monday’s announcement relates to agreements for clinical services and administrative services provided by WSUPG physicians primarily at DMC Receiving Hospital, DMC Harper University Hospital and DMC Hutzel Women’s Hospital. A separate teaching agreement under which Wayne State medical students train at DMC hospitals is unaffected by the deadline. 

Dr. Charles Shanley, vice dean of the WSU medical school and president and CEO of the University Physician Group, told The Detroit News on Monday that “this is potentially a transformational platform to do something really special. I am very excited about it.” 

But Shanley declined to provide further details about the agreement. The university also declined to allow its officials, including members of its Board of Governors, to speak on the agreement. DMC officials also declined to elaborate.

The News reported Friday that DMC proposed extending the partnership with WSU through Aug. 31, but that was contingent on coming to terms by 10 a.m. Monday.

The DMC's offer included several caveats.

■Either party could cancel the agreement on a 14-day notice.

■A joint advisory committee would be formed to discuss their shared future and transition arrangement.

■Non-solicitation provisions that bar talks with other potential partners would be eliminated.

In return, the DMC would guarantee fixed monthly payments equal to the amount physicians are paid under the current agreement.

It's unclear whether the university accepted those terms with both sides declining to disclose them when pressed by The News.

“For decades, Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine have worked together to provide top-notch medical care for Detroit residents and state-of-the-art training and research opportunities for the School of Medicine,” said Dr. Anthony Tedeschi, chief executive officer of DMC, in a statement.

“Our relationship over the years has impacted thousands of physicians and patients, and based upon my discussions with Dean Sobel over the past week, I am hopeful about the possibility that we can continue our partnership in delivering excellent care to patients and growing our respective institutions.”

Tedeschi said in a statement last week that talks ended because “our relationship with (Wayne State) leadership has become “acrimonious,” referencing an April letter from university leadership that put a mid-May deadline on contract talks.

But a day later, DMC/Tenet sources, who did not want to be named, said the DMC was still engaged in discussions with Wayne State University, which were focused on maintaining care for patients.

If no resolution is eventually agreed upon, a break-up between WSU and the DMC — and its for-profit owner, Tenet Healthcare Corp. — is expected to affect thousands of the hospital’s patients as well as the university’s medical school and hundreds of doctors who work at the DMC’s facilities.

The physician group has a strong affiliation with the WSU School of Medicine, where many of its doctors teach, and which provides medical, administrative and clinical services in DMC hospitals, which have more than 2,000 licensed beds and 3,000 affiliated physicians.