Urban Medical taken over by Beth Israel

June 12, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

Changes name to Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare—Jamaica Plain

JP CENTER—After 33 years as an independent practice, the Urban Medical Group at 545 Centre St.—a practice focusing on primary care for elderly and chronically ill patients—was taken over by Beth Israel Deaconess HeathCare June 1.

The takeover by the Beth Israel network—which, according to press materials, includes over 150 doctors in the Greater Boston Area—was based on economic concerns, said network CEO Jeffrey Liebman.

“Given [economic] pressures and the way the health care system is moving, it is impossible for Urban Medical to stand on its own going forward,” he said.

In addition to providing standard office visits, Urban Medical’s practice includes house calls to homebound patients and over 20 satellite sites at group homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, a former Urban Medical board member and current House chair of the state legislature’s joint Committee on Public Health, said the practice’s plight is symptomatic of systemic problems in the health care system. Urban Medical “keeps frail, chronically ill and elderly people out of emergency rooms through a model that works…but the system does not work to reimburse that,” he said in an interview.

Liebman agreed with that assessment. He said discussing health care policy is “above my pay grade,” but public officials “have to figure out at the state and national level fi-nance health care so programs like this can continue to do well.”

Beth Israel, which has worked with Urban Medical since its inception, will likely take a loss running the practice, he said. “We think they provide an important service for the community.”

He said all of the clinical staff at the facility and most of the office staff were of-fered the opportunity to stay on when Beth Israel took over.

In February, the Gazette reported that Urban Medical had been forced for the first time to hire recruiters to fill primary care staff vacancies.

Bruce Aurebach, head of the Massachusetts Medical Society, told the Gazette at the time that low reimbursement rates for primary care physicians were hurting the field’s popular-ity among medical school students.

Liebman told the Gazette Beth Israel does not have immediate plans to change staffing levels at the practice.

Once the transition is complete, “we will assess what the community needs,” he said.