Hospital considers outsourcing to end 50-year relationship with local radiology group

June 30, 2009

The oldest radiology group in historic Natchez, MS, faces hard times, if an acute-care hospital in town executes plans to contract with an out-of-town medical group to remotely provide its imaging reading services.

The oldest radiology group in historic Natchez, MS, faces hard times, if an acute-care hospital in town executes plans to contract with an out-of-town medical group to remotely provide its imaging reading services.

For 50 years, Radiology Associates of Natchez, a group formed by Drs. Ray Brown and Fred Emrick, has read all the x-rays and other imaging studies from the Natchez Regional Medical Center and its smaller counterpart in Adams County, the Natchez Community Hospital.

But that tradition may end soon. On May 28, the NRMC's board of trustees decided to end its relationship with Radiology Associates by contracting with Comprehensive Radiology Services, a 17-member radiology group in Hattiesburg, a city of 50,000, 125 miles southeast of Natchez.

 

Dr. Ken Stubbs, the NRMC's vice president of medical affairs, told the local Natchez Democrat that the new deal could result in several efficiencies for the hospital, including faster throughput and the possibility of handling imaging procedures that are now performed at imaging facilities out of town.

According to Brown, also quoted in the Natchez newspaper, the contract would mean the loss of about a third of his business and would damage other local radiologists.

A source familiar with the controversy said Brown's group had been reluctant to heed calls from Regional Medical Center to update its imaging technology. Speaking on background, the source also indicated that Regional was unhappy with the turnaround times. Results from some studies, including mammograms, take nearly two weeks to reach Regional patients. By contracting with CRS, the trustees were assured that turnaround would be cut to two hours.

Neither Brown nor Emrick responded to Diagnostic Imaging requests for comment. A hearing is scheduled in late July to allow the public to comment on the proposal.