CHAMPAIGN — If you’re a Christie Clinic obstetrics/gynecology patient, your choice of hospitals for births and other care from doctors specializing in that care is being narrowed to one.
Christie Clinic informed patients in a letter dated Monday that, starting Dec. 1, the only hospital where it will be providing these services will be Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
“This includes all gynecologic surgeries, labor and delivery management, postpartum care, hospital consultation, gynecologic admissions and emergency-room evaluations,” reads the letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Pierce.
Pierce told The News-Gazette on Thursday that about half the babies delivered by Christie Clinic providers have been at Carle and the other half have been at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana.
The decision to consolidate deliveries and ob/gyn services exclusively at one hospital arose from the stress of having to have both on-call and back-up physicians available for two hospitals with completely different call systems, he said.
That “has become unsustainable for a lot of physicians,” Pierce said.
The practice of medicine has become increasingly complex, more strenuous and emotionally charged, Pierce said.
“Physicians try to do the best they can, until they get to the end of their rope,” he said.
Dr. Jared Rogers, president of OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, said he was informed of Christie Clinic’s plans last Friday.
He was “very disappointed,” given the longstanding relationship between the hospital and Christie providers, he said.
Rogers said he was also baffled about the timing of when the changes take effect, partly because expectant parents like to have their birth plans in place many months in advance.
For Christie’s ob/gyn patients who want to continue making OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center their hospital, Rogers said, plans are underway to make sure there will be ob/gyn providers available for them at that hospital come Dec. 1.
“We will be ready,” he said.
In his letter to ob/gyn patients, Pierce also said Christie patients would find a streamlined process to make sure a Christie provider would be involved in their care if they go to the Carle emergency department and need a consult or hospital admission.
“As we have done for the last 15 years, our Christie Clinic physician and midwife team will continue to actively manage and participate in all obstetric admissions for our pregnant patients at Carle Foundation Hospital,” the letter states.
Pierce further advised patients they may need to contact their insurance providers to verify that Carle Foundation Hospital is in their covered network.
“We want to make this a smooth transition for you and your family,” his letter said.
Pierce said Christie is trying to work with patients who don’t have coverage at Carle to see if they can work out exemptions with their health insurers.
Plus, he said, “Carle is willing to work with patients,” Pierce said. “They are very patient-friendly.”
Pierce said the decision about ob/gyn services wasn’t related to a dispute that arose between Christie Clinic and OSF HealthCare in 2019 and 2020 over business practices and patient-care issues and resulted in 67 Christie physicians resigning from Heart of Mary’s medical staff as of March 2020.
Pierce said his interest is in making sure Christie Clinic does its best for its patients’ well-being — while at the same time having healthy physicians.
Rogers said OSF hasn’t been involved in discussions about anything related to Christie Clinic’s current decision on ob/gyn hospital services for a year or more.
“We at OSF are still open to collaborating with Christie Clinic and their excellent physicians,” he said.
A Carle official said Thursday that its Urbana hospital can handle the additional volume from Christie doctors.
“While this is a higher volume time for our hospitals as we continue working to address needs for all of our patients, the need for deliveries regularly fluctuates and our structure accommodates for that,” said Kayla Banks, Carle’s vice president for women’s, children’s and diagnostic services.
“Carle stands ready to support more births as the Level III regional safety net for maternal and neonatal care,” Banks said. “Our dedicated obstetrics teams plan for changing additional need and are ready to provide high-quality resources and care to new and existing patients.”