Senior faculty members of the University of Utah's Department of Pediatrics want U. President Chase N. Peterson to counter a tide of negative publicity they say their department and its chairman don't deserve.
In a Nov. 6 letter to Peterson, 12 pediatric faculty members said, "We are distressed by the negative publicity that both our department and its chairman have received." The faculty members said the media had made little attempt to uncover the facts, rather basing their reports on opinions of individuals.Deseret News attempts to obtain comment from faculty members over the various controversies have been thwarted for the most part by the faculty's refusal to comment on the record. They have also refused to comment, saying they are doing so on the advice of their attorneys.
The letter also criticized the university and medical school administrations, saying the two administrations have "done little to counter the adverse publicity. We feel that it is time for the administration of the university and the medical school to address the allegations in a reasonable, unemotional, accurate and factual manner."
Peterson was traveling abroad this week andcould not be reached for comment.
The letter comes in the wake of media reports about an investigation by the Utah Attorney General's office into possible antitrust violations between the University Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center, an Intermountain Health Care facility.
The investigation appears to be focused on a group of 85 pediatric faculty physicians who have formed their own corporation to negotiate with insurance companies over fees. Dr. Michael A. Simmons is chairman of that corporation, called Pediatric Faculty Physicians, Inc. Members of that group wrote the letter to Peterson.
The state also appears to be looking at agreements between the two hospitals that may have diminished competition between the neonatal units at both facilities.
The letter praised Simmons, chairman of the U.'s pediatrics department and the medical director of Primary Children's. Printed on stationary that carried the names and logos of Primary Children's and the University of Utah School of Medicine, the letter said that since Simmons became department chairman, pediatric services at the U. have grown dramatically.
"Dr. Simmons, through his leadership of our department, has contributed as much or more to the care of children in the Intermountain area than any other person within our memory," the letter said.
The letter credited Simmons for dramatic growth at both the U. Hospital and Primary Children's. "Over the past seven years, the growth has occurred at both hospitals: Emergency services at Primary Children's Hospital expanded from 6,000 patient visits a year to approximately 20,000 visits, while the general pediatric visits at the University Hospital have grown from about 5,000 visits per year to a projected 24,000 visits this year."
Simmons recently came under fire from physicians and nurses for eliminating the medical residents' neonatal rotation at the U. and moving it to Primary. The letter defended that decision as one made in the best educational interest of the residents.
"The decision was made based on the variety of patients in the Primary Children's Unit and the immediate availability of various special physicians for teaching our residents."
Copies of the letter to Peterson were sent to the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune by Dr. Lucy M. Osborn, professor and vice chairwoman of the department of pediatrics.