IU Health, neurosurgical group still at loggerheads

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With a December deadline approaching for Indiana University Health and an independent group of neurosurgeons to reach an agreement to continue working together, all signs indicate that the two sides are digging in and might part ways.

IU Health has repeatedly said it wants surgeons from Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine who treat patients at IU Health facilities to become employees. It has recently hired away five surgeons from Goodman Campbell who had been caring for patients at IU Health's Riley Hospital for Children.

Goodman Campbell, meanwhile, wants to remain independent and allow its surgeons to work at multiple health systems around the state.

Goodman Campbell, with about 50 physicians, said it will “continue to partner with hospital systems throughout central Indiana.” The firm, based at 355 W. 16th St., also said it plans to open a new office in Carmel this summer.

“Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine will continue to operate as an independent practice providing exceptional level of neurosurgical care for both pediatric and adult patients,” the firm said in a recent statement to IBJ.

Its surgeons treat a host of difficult medical conditions on the brain and spine, including aneurysms, concussions, pituitary disorders, spinal discs, tumors, injuries and degenerative diseases.

IU Health, meanwhile, said it is building its own neurosurgical team, and is talking to neurosurgeons in the area “to give them the flexibility to choose the path forward that is best for each individual.”

“We are very pleased that five pediatric neurosurgeons, who have been caring for patients at Riley Hospital for Children, have decided to join IU Health Physicians, along with three nurse practitioners,” IU Health said in an email. “This group will transfer employment in May 2019.”

IU Health, which is the largest health system in the state, has been building its own physician network over the past decade, and now employs about 1,800 doctors in a wide range of specialties, under the IU Health Physicians umbrella.

IU Health Physicians is a joint venture between IU Health and the IU School of Medicine, and many of the doctors at IU Health also hold faculty positions at the medical school. All neurosurgeons who join IU Health Physicians also will hold faculty status, IU Health said.

"IU Health Physicians will now have its own neurosurgical group," the health system said. "However, like other independent physicians, Goodman Campbell providers may continue to have medical staff privileges at IU Health facilities."

That could spell the end of Goodman Campbell’s distinctive role at the medical school. Goodman Campbell physicians have long staffed the IU School of Medicine’s neurological surgery department. In recent years, it was the only department in the school not staffed by IU Health Physicians.

But earlier this year, the medical school made a change. Dr. Nicholas Barbaro, a Goodman Campbell surgeon, stepped down as department chair. Dr. Robert Pascuzzi, chair of the Department of Neurology, will serve as interim chair while the medical school undertakes a national search, a spokeswoman for the medical school said.

Goodman Campbell, a physician-owned private practice, was founded in 2010 through the merger of the Indianapolis Neurosurgical Group and the Indiana University Department of Neurological Surgery.

IU Health says the goal of building a large network of physician-employees is to coordinate care across its system, from treatment protocols and electronic medical records to physician salaries and patient billing. Doing so, it says, improves patient care.

But some outside groups, such as the Florida-based Association of Independent Doctors, say such moves restrict the access patients have to care and a competitive marketplace.

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