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Health

New Atrium Anesthesiology Provider Disputes Claim He's Reducing Staff

Atrium Health
Atrium Health
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Atrium Health, formerly Carolinas HealthCare Systems, has a new anesthesiology provider.

The fallout of Atrium's decision to end its nearly 40-year relationship with Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants and its parent company Mednax has spurred charges that the new company intends to reduce the number of doctors it utilizes — a claim that the new company taking over and Atrium denies. 

Dr. Tom Wherry, an anesthesiologist from Maryland, was hired by Atrium Health in February 2017 as a consultant. He studied the hospital's physician anesthesiologist staffing models and he looked for efficiencies and presented those options to Atrium. Now his company is taking over anesthesiology care for Atrium. He disputes the accusations made by Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants.

“The plan at Atrium Health centers is not to reduce the number of physicians,” he said. “The plan and the model is the exact same number of physicians will be there for the start of the day, the exact same number of physicians will be there at night and for emergencies. So the information out there that there will be a reduction of physicians is absolutely untrue.”

Southeast Anesthesiology had claimed that anesthesiologist staff would be reduced by 30 percent. The company also said in a letter to surgeons that certain locations would operate with nurse anesthetists supervised by surgeons — not a physician anesthesiologist. Atrium and Wherry say that is not true. And Wherry said the doctor to patient ratio will also remain the same. 

“The ratios will not change," Wherry said. "Tweaks here and there depending on the hospital, depending on the volume, depending on efficiencies, and how we can improve scheduling. But there will be no change in the ratios in general. We will certainly not exceed 1 to 4.”

The details of the new model are still unclear. Both Atrium and Wherry say it will save the health system money but won’t say how much.

Wherry has consulted with different hospitals and health systems. He said he decided to relocate to Charlotte because the Atrium opportunity was something he couldn’t pass up. He’s now recruiting doctors to work for his new company called Scope Anesthesia of North Carolina. His contract takes effect in July.

Wherry: “I have physicians from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Illinois, New York and Florida all very interested in coming and have signed on.” WFAE: “Can you give me a sense of how far along you are in the process. I know it’s only a couple months until the contract would start."  Wherry: “Hard to give an exact percentage. But I'm confident by the time July 1 comes along I’ll have the adequate staff.” 

Wherry said he’d like to hire some doctors from Mednax but he can't. Both Mednax and Atrium say the doctors are limited by non-compete agreements.