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Competition for Pinellas cardiology patients hits mailboxes

ST. PETERSBURG — The competition for cardiac patients in south Pinellas County seems as keen as ever, to judge from recent letters hitting patients' mailboxes. One even assures them that — contrary to what they may have heard — appointments are not being canceled and equipment is not malfunctioning.

What's going on?

Suncoast Medical Clinic recently sent a letter to heart patients — a response to another letter sent by a new practice owned by Bayfront Medical Center.

Suncoast's main office is right next to Bayfront, but it recently announced it is teaming up with BayCare Health System, the area's largest provider.

Suncoast's letter says it has "received many phone calls from patients concerned about a letter they received from Bayfront Cardiovascular Associates stating that their records had been transferred and suggesting that their cardiac care was being transferred to Bayfront Cardiovascular Associates." The letter assures patients, in bold, underlined type, that "no records have been transferred."

Drs. Vibhuti Singh and Jason Levine recently left Suncoast to join Bayfront's new cardiovascular practice. Suncoast, meanwhile, is being purchased by St. Anthony's Health Care, which is part of BayCare.

For their part, Bayfront officials said letters were sent to patients of Singh and Levine informing them of the new practice and telling them they don't need to take action to remain with their doctors, said Marie Cirelli, a Bayfront spokeswoman.

The Suncoast letter, dated June 23, said some patients also got phone calls informing them that their appointments had been canceled or that the Suncoast equipment wasn't working properly — neither of which is true. Bayfront has not phoned patients, Cirelli said.

William Ulbricht, president of St. Anthony's Health Care, said the Suncoast letters were sent to clear confusion and the information will help patients who want to stay with Singh and Levine. In fact, he said, although Suncoast has not transferred the patients' records, it has provided copies of the records to Bayfront Cardiovascular Associates.The doctors' departure was no surprise, he said.

"There were not any big issues, bad feelings or anything," Ulbricht said. "We wish them all the luck in the world."

Both Bayfront's new cardiology practice and Suncoast Cardiology, a practice of Drs. Andrea C. Woods, Kevin F. Garner and Trevor M. Law, reflect a national trend in which more doctors are moving to hospital-owned groups. As the government cuts reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid, and as new models of care emerge, experts say hospital-based systems such as BayCare and Bayfront will be best able to cope with the changes.

Richard Martin can be reached at rmartin@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3322.

Competition for Pinellas cardiology patients hits mailboxes 07/05/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 12:58am]

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