Since the for-profit system acquired six-hospital, Asheville, NC-based Mission Health in February 2019, there has been a series of reports about cascading community impacts, including a large physician exodus from the system. Local news outlet Asheville Watchdog counts 223 doctors who are no longer included in the system’s online directory, which currently lists about 1,600 physicians; HCA has also reportedly reduced health system staff by over 12 percent since the acquisition. Former Mission doctors say that patient care at the system is suffering, and that HCA doesn’t place the same value on primary care that Mission Health physicians historically did.
The Gist: The cultural shift from 130 years as a nonprofit community fixture to for-profit health system subsidiary has been rocky for Mission. Even before the HCA deal had been finalized, Mission physicians expressed concerns about how the company would implement its lean staffing and operational “playbook”. These expected changes were surely compounded by COVID-related staffing challenges.
Physician stakeholders who feel uncertain about the impact of an impending merger can sometimes use their voice to stymie health system combinations (see Beaumont Health’s failed merger with Advocate Aurora Health), but may also vote with their feet when dissatisfied with new ownership, leaving critical gaps in patient care.