Specialty Hospital Controversy Comes to East Texas

There is a growing revolution in medicine across the country. More and more doctors are starting their own speciality hospitals. And the trend has now reached East Texas with the opening of the Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in Tyler.

Critics say speciality hospitals take the most profitable patients away from established community hospitals. Others say it's all about receiving specialized care.

Dr. Charles Gordon believes this is the place to go if you need spinal surgery. "There have been major studies come out fairly recently that indicate that if you're contemplating a procedure, your results are going to be much better at a place where that procedure is done frequently."

Dr. Gordon is a co-owner of the new Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in the old Montgomery Wards building. He and 24 other doctors opened the facility to do orthopaedic and neurology cases. And he likes the control in-patient care ownership brings.

"As a physician, I want to provide for my patients, the most comfortable, the most friendly, the warmest environment that I can because studies have shown that people do better if they're in an environment like that."

Not everyone is happy with the new hospital. Tuesday, ETMC Tyler released a statement on specialty hospitals. ETMC spokesperson Rebecca Berkley said "For-profit specialty hospitals may drain paying patients, which would jeopardize our ability to cover non-paying patients. In the long run, this situation could seriously hurt the ability of full service hospitals to deliver community healthcare needs." ETMC says each year, their hospital system provides more than $130 million in indigent medical care.

Trinity Mother Frances also released a prepared statement saying, "Physicians are free to form facilities, up to and including limited services hospitals."

"We do not view ourselves as competitors at all," responded Dr. Gordon, "Because frankly, the non-profit hospitals in town do an excellent job."

Dr. Gordon admits not all patients belong in the specialty hospital. He says those who are more likely to have multiple illnesses or complications should be at the larger centers.

There are at least eight new specialty hospitals scheduled to open in Texas this year alone.

Stephen Parr, reporting.