The Coliseum Heart Institute is more than a new name, it’s a “new beginning” for Coliseum’s heart program, hospital officials say.
And a big part of that new start is a partnership with a group of Macon doctors who will focus on improving cardiac care.
The 12 cardiologists and electrophysiologists remain independent practitioners but will work “hand-in-hand with each other and the hospital to develop initiatives that will improve patient care and outcomes,” said Heart Institute director Sheila Gebel, assistant chief nursing officer at Coliseum.
“These people are all competitors who have realized their strength is in each other, and that they can help each other and help their patients,” said Gebel.
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Coliseum performs about 280 heart surgeries each year. The hospital launched its open-heart surgery program in 2001 after more than 15 years of legal battles to gain the necessary state permit.
The nonprofit Medical Center of Central Georgia challenged the permit — called a “certificate of need” — claiming it would siphon revenue from its heart surgery program.
The Coliseum partnership will “create a level playing field for the patient,” said Dr. Joe Poku.
Poku and the other doctors in the group all have privileges and provide care at both Coliseum and the Medical Center.
“You should have especially good care no matter where you are, no matter what hospital (emergency room) you find yourself in,” Poku said. “If you think heart care, you should think Macon, and not just one hospital. We want to see good quality heart care, no matter what hospital you’re affiliated with.
“This actually causes both places to really keep up with quality and investment in cardiac care.”
As an alliance, the doctors say, they can better influence decisions within the health system.
“A group of physicians talk in a stronger voice than one physician,” Poku said.
“This puts the decision in the physicians’ hands, which is where it belongs,” said Dr. Maria Bartlett, “and not in an administrator’s hands.”
In 2002, a Superior Court judge halted the Coliseum’s heart-surgery program, but the Medical Center dropped its opposition a few months later. In exchange, the Medical Center agreed to buy Middle Georgia Hospital (now the Children’s Hospital) from Coliseum.
The Medical Center performs an estimated 800 heart surgeries a year and treats more cardiac, vascular and electrophysiology cases than any facility in Georgia, said Suellen Richardson, assistant vice president of the hospital’s Georgia Heart Center.
In 1977, doctors at the Medical Center performed what is believed to be the midstate’s first open-heart surgery. Richardson recalls the Medical Center began a group similar to the Coliseum alliance, though less formal, in the early 1980s, she said.
Its Albert “Buddy” Luce Heart Institute, which houses the Georgia Heart Center, does include a “cabinet” of doctors, and Richardson said the hospital tries to include nurses and other care providers and staff in discussions.
“It’s not something you can turn on tomorrow. It takes day-in and day-out looking at your procedures, asking questions about their thoughts on how we do things, from the smallest of things to how we build a building.”
The doctors in the Coliseum partnership include Bartlett, Poku, Talley Culclasure, Obi Emerole, Juan Esnard, Daniel Haithcock, Surender Malhotra, Tom Meyer, Stephen Noller, Chuk Nwabuebo, Felix Sogade and Tom Terry.
“They’re all good doctors,” said Medical Center President and CEO Don Faulk.
The hospitals remain “very competitive,” Faulk said.
“I think we’ll always be. For us to succeed as a large, community hospital with all the roles we have, such as being a trauma center, we’ve got to have paying patients here and not just the uninsured.”
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this story.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.