A proposed cooperative effort between the Visalia Medical Clinic and the Kaweah Delta Health Care District could soon help attract new physicians to the area, and give them incentive to remain here once they arrive.
Under the umbrella of the soon-to-be established Kaweah Delta Medical Foundation, VMC will become “a clear path to practice opportunities” for participants in the District’s Graduate Medical Education program, said Lindsay Mann, CEO for KDHCD. The GME program trains new physicians in the KDHCD system, preparing them for ongoing education or in anticipation of establishing their own practice.
“The idea of the Medical Foundation, as we recruit physicians, is that we’ll actually improve the capacity to serve the patients who seek out care,” Mann said.
The expanded care, he predicts, will be more capable, and prove more convenient and accessible for patients.
The agreement should be inked sometime this fall, following action by the two organization’s boards of directors this summer.
“We don’t have a final date. We expect October or November, we’ll start the Foundation,” Mann said. “At this time, the leaders of Visalia Medical Clinic and Kaweah Delta are working on matters of due diligence and implementing planning, meaning we’re getting to know each other.”
Keeping Doctors Local
When the change takes place, VMC’s medical staff will become a medical group organized under the Foundation’s name. State law, Mann said, does not allow hospitals to employ doctors directly, but most prefer to have steady employment. The new medical group will provide that.
“Physicians in today’s environment want to seek employment or the equivalent,” Mann said.
It will also provide physicians who are completing residence at Kaweah Delta with a reason to remain in the community.
“It’s a huge part of this,” said Mann. “The residency program is beginning its third year.”
There are currently 58 physicians in the residency program at KDHCD. Their ranks will swell with two new residency programs, including a surgical residency, beginning July 1. The hospital is also expanding its residency programs for emergency room physicians, family medicine and psychiatry.
“We’ll have up to 80 in the programs,” Mann said. “It’s projected we’ll retain 50 percent of those. Imagine how much care 40 new doctors in the area could provide.”
VMC Staff to Become Kaweah Delta Employees
The Foundation will also oversee approximately 200 non-medical staff at VMC, as well as leasing the VMC’s facility at Akers Road and Hillsdale Avenue, and acquiring VMC’s other assets. While the Foundation will take over the hiring of personnel and the day-to-day operations, it will continue to operate as the Visalia Medical Clinic.
“Visalia Medical Clinic staff will become Kaweah Delta staff,” Mann said, “but they will be dedicated solely to the Medical Foundation.”
Better, Easier Care
Besides drawing medical personnel to the area and helping keep them here, the cooperative effort should also provide for easier, better coordinated care for those treated at Kaweah Delta’s in-patient facilities as they seek follow-up care with their physicians after discharge. The agreement will also help both entities prepare for upcoming changes in the way heath-care providers are paid, such as value-based purchasing, bundled payments and the capitated care agreements under which providers are paid on a per-patient basis.
The move is also intended to build confidence in local health-care providers while both preserving and expanding VMC and KDHCD’s market share, Mann said.
Once the agreement to form the new foundation is final, the next step will be establishing a professional service agreement with the providers at VMC. Once this is done, operation of the facilities and employment of its non-medical personnel will be transferred to KDMF.