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URBANA — In the two years since OSF HealthCare became the owner of the former Presence Covenant Medical Center, dozens of Christie Clinic doctors have resigned from the Urbana hospital’s medical staff.

OSF spokeswoman Libby Allison said OSF and Christie Clinic have had a long-standing relationship. However, in the past 17 months, 67 Christie Clinic physicians and other providers have resigned from the medical staff of the hospital that is now OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, with one of those resignations related to a retirement, she said.

“These resignations are disappointing and have caused undue stress and confusion for our patients,” she said. “OSF HealthCare is working diligently to make sure patients continue to receive uninterrupted quality health care at a level they have grown to expect at our facilities.”

Patients are, of course, free to receive care at the hospitals they choose, though, for those with health insurance, that choice is typically dictated by their health plans’ provider networks.

So what happens when both a patient’s doctor and hospital of choice are both in-network, but the doctor isn’t affiliated with that hospital?

It means the doctor can’t admit patients, do procedures or otherwise provide care at that hospital, Allison said.

Peoria-based OSF HealthCare became the owner of both the Urbana and Danville hospitals that have been renamed OSF Heart of Mary and OSF Sacred Heart medical centers in February 2018.

Since that time, OSF has opened four convenient care (called Urgo) centers in Champaign, Urbana and Danville, added to its medical provider presence in the area and, most recently, hired a patient navigator to help schedule appointments and answer questions about insurance coverage.

The number one reason for hiring the patient navigator was the Christie Clinic provider resignations from OSF’s medical staff, Allison said.

An OSF Heart of Mary website post about the new patient navigator is under a banner that urges patients to “know the truth” about their health care options.

It informs patients that, for the most part, there aren’t any reasons they can’t have the majority of their tests done at OSF Heart of Mary, and that, in some cases, it may be less expensive to have health care delivered at the hospital.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up and inform your provider you want to have your tests or procedures done at OSF Heart of Mary,” it states. “This is your health care after all!”

Christie Clinic CEO Kenny Bilger said Christie doctors haven’t been told not to send their patients who need hospital care to OSF.

“Christie Clinic is owned by its physicians, led by a physician board of directors and the physicians, along with their patients, decide which facility to seek inpatient care,” he said. “These decisions are based on continuity of care, acuity of readily available services and overall working environment for the medical staff.”

Asked whether OSF HealthCare had expressed an interest in purchasing Christie Clinic, Bilger said that is true.

“Christie Clinic has had, and continues to have, no interest in selling the clinic to anyone,” he said.

Melissa Tepovich, the clinic’s marketing and public relations manager, said patients anticipating a hospital stay can confirm with their doctors or doctors’ office staff whether those doctors are affiliated with the hospitals they choose.

News-Gazette