Jan. 21, 2004 – Outpatient surgery centers owned and operated by physicians represent a "frightening" and "dangerous" threat to community hospitals, according to Larry Gage, president of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems.
Gage spoke to board members of the V.I. Government Hospital and Health Facilities Corp., which operates the territory's hospitals, at a retreat on St. Croix last weekend.
Gage's comments appeared in a press release issued by Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
Gage's remarks are the latest in a war of words concerning a proposal to build a privately owned ambulatory surgical care center on St. Thomas. Since being announced last month, the proposed facility has been the source of heated debate between hospital officials and the group of doctors seeking to build the center.
During the retreat, Gage said there is cause for concern "about these 'niche providers,' especially when your own doctors are going out and cannibalizing your most profitable patients," adding, "A full-service hospital ultimately is going to deteriorate, because you can't make ends meet if you can't help the full range of patients."
Gage told the board members that ambulatory surgery centers are "a trend that is frightening if you believe we should have a safety net, because if our full-service hospitals are not able to serve the full range of patients, they might as well shut the doors."
Locally, he predicted, "either you're going to call on the Virgin Islands government for a very large appropriation, or you're going to be shutting down services."
Gage is a former deputy assistant secretary for health legislation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has more than 25 years of experience in health care. He is a partner in Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy, a Washington, D.C., health-care law and policy firm that advises more than one hundred public and not-for-profit hospitals and medical schools.

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