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OBR OncologyCancer Center a “Ghost Town” After Acquisition

Is Consolidation Jeopardizing Patient-Centric Care?


In the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, Mission Cancer Center, once a bustling facility, has seen a significant shift in its atmosphere and services since its acquisition by HCA HealthCare. This change has raised concerns about the broader implications of larger hospitals acquiring and consolidating smaller cancer practices.

Key Points:

  • Mission Cancer Center was a vibrant facility with a gift shop, art gallery, oncology pharmacy, and easy access to counselors and nurse navigators.
  • Since HCA HealthCare’s acquisition, there have been significant physician and staff departures, leading to longer wait times and tumor board delays.
  • HCA HealthCare acquired Mission Health Care and its cancer center in 2019 for reportedly $1.5 billion.
  • Since the acquisition, the center has lost as many as 223 physicians systemwide, with the number of full-time oncologists dropping from 14 in 2019 to just one recently.
  • The North Carolina attorney general’s office has begun a formal inquiry, demanding answers about the oncology department.
  • HCA responded partially to the attorney general’s demands, stating that they have 39 oncology physicians among its credentialed providers but only one formally employed oncologist.

Additional Points:

  • Larger hospitals acquiring and consolidating smaller cancer practices has been a concern due to potential loss of patient-centric care and local healthcare accessibility.
  • HCA operates 180 hospitals and about 2,300 care sites across 20 states and the UK.
  • A study from Harvard and Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center showed that 10%-15% of practicing medical and radiation oncologists are now affiliated with private equity–backed clinics.
  • Private equity involvement could potentially impact patient care, access, outcomes, and costs.

Conclusion:

  • The acquisition and consolidation trend, whether by public companies like HCA or private equity groups, raises questions about the future of patient-centric care and the autonomy of medical professionals.

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“There are private equity companies that, after buying up a clinic, will change their relationship with oncologists – converting them into employed physicians, potentially reducing their autonomy, increasing their patient volume, or changing other aspects of the job – which could decrease physician satisfaction and increase rates of burnout.”

Michael Milligan, MD
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