Estes Park Health CEO talks physician turnover
A lot of changes have occured in the last year at Estes Park Health (EPH), from a rebranding effort—formally Estes Park Medical Center—to a new patient record system , a hospitalist and surgicalist program, along with new physicians. These things can be viewed as positive changes to some, yet questions in the community have lingered about physicians leaving and the turnover rate at EPH.
The facility-wide turnover rate at Estes Park Health in 2018 was 19 percent. This is in line with Compdata Surveys of a nationwide turnover rate in healthcare jobs at 20.6 percent in 2017. This survey was with 11,000 healthcare employers and over 11 million employees.
According to EPH CEO Larry Leaming, the physician turnover rate at the hospital was 15.4 percent compared to the numbers at the beginning of 2018. Leaming said that according to a Physician Retention Survey provided by the American Medical Group Association, the annual physician turnover rate is at an all-time high of 6.8 percent on average. Yet that same survey also states that small physician groups, like at EPH, have a higher turnover rate of 19.4 percent.
There were 13 physicians at EPH at the start of 2018, and two left, Dr. Mark MacElwee and Dr. Frank Dumont. They added four more doctors, bringing the total physician count to 15, and lowering the turnover to 13.4 when factoring in the two new doctors.
Leaming said that turnover is a complex issue, and can be affected by both voluntary and involuntary resignation, retirements and more.
“There are a lot of things that contribute to turnover, right now there is a lot of turnover in retirement, the baby boomer generation,” Leaming said. “You also have a lot of discussion around the amount of change in the way we practice medicine these days.”
As far as the physicians that left in 2018, Leaming said that Dumont left EPH to pursue his passion of wellness.
“Dr Dumont is all about wellness, this was the perfect opportunity for him to spend his full time in that arena and still stay in Estes Park,” Leaming said. “That was really hard for him to not take advantage of.”
Dr. MacElwee was a different story. Controversy brewed in the spring of last year when MacElwee was suspended for a situation that has never fully come to light. He was later reinstated, and a third party review of the situation occurred, with the Estes Park Health Board of Directors hearing the report in an executive session. The report was never released publicly and MacElwee resigned effective in September after six years at the hospital.
“HIndsight is always 20/20, there was some circumstances that needed to be addressed, which is the confidential personnel piece of that,” Leaming said. “Thinking back, we could have handled that situation a lot better, we could have handled it in a lot more professional manner, we could have handled it in a lot more confidential manner. It didn’t have to get the sensationalism that it did and that is unfortunate, and if I could go back and change that I would in a heartbeat.”
Leaming said the third party review of the situation was confidential, but he said that the main points of the report was that a situation needed to be addressed, but it could have been handled it differently.
Leaming said that retaining talented physicians is important, and that is why each year they are looking at wages and making sure they are staying competitive with other hospitals on the Front Range. He said Estes Park is exceptional with the location as far as recruitment goes, and said that he has had physicians come into the hospital each summer looking to work there.
“It is a very attractive place to live and work, but you have to make sure you are paying them fairly or they will leave for more pay,” Leaming said.