Ballad Health pulls independent orthopedic groups from ER care at Tennessee hospital

Practice Management

Watauga Orthopaedics in Johnson City, Tenn., will no longer provide trauma care at Johnson City Medical Center's emergency department, the practice said in a Jan. 4 Facebook post.

The decision, which goes into effect Feb. 1, comes from Ballad Health, which is removing all independent orthopedic groups from offering on-call services at the hospital. Watauga Orthopaedics physicians will remain on the medical staff, according to the statement.

Watauga Orthopaedics' statement criticized Ballad Health's move, saying the onus is on patients to request the practice's physicians to be called to JCMC for emergency care. 

"Ballad's change to trauma call coverage at JCMC is another example of steps they are taking to monopolize healthcare in our region," the statement said. 

A statement from Ballad Health shared with Becker's Jan. 5 said the change, which will ensure ER patients are seen by a fellowship-trained orthopedic trauma physician, is in line with best practices for level 1 trauma centers, and orthopedic trauma patients will still be able to see the physician they prefer. 

"As a major trauma center committed to following best practices for patient care, Johnson City Medical Center is committed to ensuring any patient presenting with traumatic injury is always quickly assessed and treated by physicians who are fellowship trained in orthopedic trauma and focus their practice on those patients," Ballad Health's statement said. "A recent public statement by Watauga Orthopaedics wrongly states that patients presenting to the hospital in need of orthopedic surgery care would no longer have a choice as to who provides that care. This statement is false. "

Watauga Orthopaedics' physicians will remain available for emergencies by patient request at JCMC, Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., and Bristol (Tenn.) Regional Medical Center, according to the practice's statement.

Note: This article was updated Jan. 5 to include Ballad Health's statement.

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