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July 9, 1998

Medical school reps, administration to meet about new practice plan

Will the planned University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP) practice plan be owned outright by UPMC Health System? If so, will Pitt medical professors affiliated with UPP become employees of UPMC?

Will UPMC forbid Pitt professors from offering medical education to people associated with schools and institutions that UPMC regards as corporate competitors? Those are among the questions that a committee of Pitt medical professors plans to discuss July 15 with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and other administrators negotiating with UPMC officials to create the new Pitt physicians practice plan.

UPP is being formed through a merger of the 17 previously independent Pitt faculty practice plans of the School of Medicine plus the dental school's practice plan.

Representatives of Pitt, UPMC and UPP are working out details of a new financial relationship through which the health system will absorb UPP.

In April, in the hope of ensuring faculty input in the negotiations, medical professors elected a seven-member Faculty Ad Hoc UPP Oversight Committee to review draft documents related to the new practice plan. Chancellor Nordenberg, interim medical school dean George Michalopoulos and other Pitt administrators pledged to cooperate with the committee.

So far, the committee has reviewed drafts of UPP bylaws and an employment agreement for new hires. Those two documents represent "the tip of the iceberg" among the mass of materials the committee wants to study, committee member Nicholas Bircher told Faculty Assembly this week.

Committee chairperson Bruce Rabin said his group is waiting for drafts of other UPP employment agreements as well as documents contractually establishing the new relationship between Pitt and UPMC Health System.

On July 1, the committee e-mailed copies of its analysis of the proposed bylaws to medical faculty, after sending a copy to the chancellor. The University Times obtained a copy from a professor in the medical school.

The committee's analysis raises questions (including the ones at the beginning of this story) and requests clarification on dozens of details of the proposed UPP bylaws.

Among other things, the committee wants to know: * Will UPMC Health System officials have the power to summarily remove the four faculty-elected clinical directors from the UPP board, as indicated in UPP's draft bylaws? * Who will make sure that UPMC complies with the bylaws? * What are the legal and functional implications of UPMC owning the Pitt physician practice plan? What alternatives were considered? Why was an alternative owner not selected? * The bylaws don't indicate that physician/scientist employees of UPP must have Pitt faculty appointments. "As physicians who are not faculty of the University of Pittsburgh can become employees of the [UPP] corporation, a thorough review of implications to the faculty needs to be performed or the corporation should consider limiting employment of physicians to those who are faculty" at Pitt, the committee wrote.

According to Rabin and Bircher, Chancellor Nordenberg invited the oversight committee to meet July 15 with him and three other key players in the Pitt-UPMC-UPP negotiations: Assistant Chancellor Jerome Cochran, Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance Arthur Ramicone and UPP President Richard Barron.

"I'm thankful to the chancellor for calling the meeting," Rabin said.

"Beyond that, and the points we [the oversight committee] raised in our written response to the bylaws, I don't want to comment publicly right now. The committee doesn't want to jeopardize the process" of trying to resolve its bylaws concerns with Pitt and UPMC officials. After July 15, though, the committee plans to report on the meeting to medical faculty, Rabin said.

Besides expressing appreciation to Nordenberg, Rabin praised interim dean Michalopoulos for mailing copies of the draft UPP bylaws to all medical faculty.

— Bruce Steele

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