Augusta Health Denies Appeal by UVA Cardiologists

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The new cardiology center at Augusta Health allows heart attack patients to be treated almost 90 minutes faster, according to Dr. Courtenay Beebe of Augusta Health. However, the center is also creating some controversy.

Starting July 1, three University of Virginia doctors, who were practicing in Augusta County, will no longer be granted access to patients hospitalized at Augusta Health.

The doctors received a letter informing them of the change in May, and it was a surprise to Dr. Max Luna.

"It was hard to swallow. They gave us an option, an opportunity to request an exception to the rule," says Luna.

Luna and the two other doctors did appeal, but the Augusta Health Board of Directors stood by its original decision.

It is a decision that has some patients, like Earl Blackwell, concerned. Blackwell says, in his opinion, it's important for his doctor to have access to the hospital, but he's worried about the inconvenience of driving to the UVA Medical Center.

"I do not feel like I want to have to travel back and forth over that mountain and my family to have to do the same thing to see me," says Blackwell.

Luna says he's also concerned about his patients.

"That fine patient-doctor relation that is critical for patient care is going to be lost," says Luna.

However Beebe Health says the new rules aren't unusual. He says, in his experience as a urologist, many hospitals have a similar "closed care" protocol.

"An outpatient doctor would send me someone with an urological problem. I would admit them to the hospital, take care of their problem, send them back to that doctor," says Beebe.

Beebe also points out that patients don't have to change cardiologists. The UVA doctor's will still be able to see all of their 5,000 patients in their office building across the street from Augusta Health.

"They can practice over there. They can see their patients. The one difference is, if you are admitted to the hospital and need a cardiologist, you'll see one of ours," says Beebe.

The doctors will be allowed to treat patients that are currently hospitalized.

Both UVA and Augusta Health say an emphasis will be placed on communicating with each other via the phone, so details about the patient won't go unnoticed.