Patients protest doctor's dismissal

By Kevin Kelley
West Life (Westlake, Ohio)
May 5, 2010

WESTLAKE, Ohio -- About 50 protesters demonstrated in front of St. John Medical Center Sunday afternoon to protest the termination of Dr. George Randt’s contract with Cuyahoga Physicians Network.

Cuyahoga Physicians Network is a for-profit practice organization owned and managed by the Sisters of Charity Health System. Randt had been seeing patients at Westlake Family Health Center, a Detroit Road practice owned and managed by St. John Medical Center.

In a letter to his patients, Randt said he was informed his contract was being terminated on April 1 by Cliff Coker, president of St. John Medical Center. The reason given, according to Randt’s letter, was “lack of productivity and generation of excessive overhead expenses.”

Randt said he was told he wasn’t seeing enough patients per hour.

Randt said he was blindsided by the termination of his contract.

“Nobody had come to use before and talked to us about our revenue generation or expense generation,” he said. Randt told reporters he received a bonus last year and his contract had been renewed in January.

The contract of Dr. Patricia Radigan, who did not attend Sunday’s protest, was also terminated.

Westlake Family Health Center sent a letter to Randt’s patients dated April 19 stating Randt will no longer be seeing patients there after April 30 “due to restructuring efforts.” The letter provided the names of other physicians patients could see and also offered to transfer medical records to other physicians.
Patients of Doctor Randt and proponents of a single-payer health care system protest along Center Ridge Road outside St. John Medical Center Sunday. Randt's contract with Cuyahoga Physicians Network was terminated last month. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)

St. John Medical Center spokesman Patrick Garmone said Cuyahoga Physicians Network had contracts with the two physicians and exercised rights within those contracts. Citing confidentiality issues, he declined to further comment on why the contracts were terminated.

Garmone also disputed several facts put out by Mobilize Ohio Movement, which advocates a single-payer health care system and organized Sunday’s protest.

Randt’s patients have not been made “medically homeless” as Mobilize Ohio Movement’s press release stated, Garmone said. As a Catholic hospital, St. John Medical Center would never deny care or access, he said.

Garmone also disputed a quote the organization attributed to Randt saying a hospital official said St. John Medical Center could make a profit if physicians “would admit just one more Medicare patient a month.”

“That’s an untrue statement,” Garmone said, adding the hospital was “slightly above break even.”

Garmone said Randt continues to have admitting privileges at St. John.

But Randt told West Life his admitting privileges had been temporarily taken away for two days.

Randt, 69, told West Life he did not yet know if he would try to start up or join another practice.

“I’m just trying to get through the rest of the day,” he said as his voice broke.

Randt said his termination underscores a larger problem in medicine — the inadequate compensation primary care physicians are given by insurance companies compared to medical specialists.

Randt told protesters that primary care physicians need to spend an adequate amount of time with each patient because taking an adequate patient history is 70 to 80 percent of making an adequate diagnosis.

“To me, medicine has been and should remain a profession where physicians should not be labeled as providers, and patients remain patients, and not consumers, or worse, customers,” Randt said.

Randt criticized the growing competition between the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals health care systems as wasteful.

“We don’t need complex and lavish physical facilities to do quality health care,” he said. “Most patients don’t care about fancy hospital rooms, valet parking, gourmet meals, the artwork on their walls or flat-screen TVs,” he said.

Carrying signs saying “Patient care above profit” and “Patients first?” protesters heard from a number of speakers, including two Maryland-based doctors from Physicians For a National Health Program.

Edwin Grover, a patient of Randt’s from Bay Village who attended the rally, said he was appalled that his doctor’s contract was terminated.

“He takes a lot of time with his patients,” Grover said. “I don’t know where I’m going to go next.”

Ken Jensen, another Randt patient who attended the protest, said he would like to hear a good definition of “medical productivity.”

Jensen said Randt spent considerable time with his patients.

“He’s very thorough,” he said. “He’s willing to listen.”

Jensen, also of Bay Village, said he doesn’t know where he will seek medical care from now on.

“As patients, we’re left in limbo here,” he said.