FACT FINDER: Heart Patients Say Renown Is Forcing Them To Switch Doctors

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & - Calls and emails have been pouring in since our Fact Finder report aired last week which uncovered a costly legal battle for Renown Medical Center.

The hospital paid five million dollars to settle a court case with a group of local cardiologists. We found the total price tag may have been more than fifteen million dollars. Now the Fact Finder Team explores where patients fit into the equation.

Back in November, retired Reno Police Officer Hal Wood had a pacemaker implanted in his chest to help regulate a slow heart beat.
Now he's been told by his insurance company he has to get a new doctor, because his cardiologist is no longer covered by Hometown Health, which is owned by Renown Health.

"They told me his name is Smith. That's all I know. Never seen the guy, know nothing about him. But I know he's Mr. Smith," Wood told News 4.

Pat Mcguire finds himself in a similar situation. After ten years with the same cardiologist, Mcguire, who is battling congestive heart failure and several other heart related issues, must say goodbye to his old doctor under the terms of his insurance, Senior Care Plus, which is also owned by Renown.

"You establish a rapport with a doctor after you've been with them that period of time. They know you, I know them. Going to another doctor it's certainly do able but it's unnerving," Mcguire told News 4 in an interview at his home where he takes 15 pills every day to manage his heart condition.

Both Wood and Mcguire's doctors were among the cardiologists who sued Renown for breach of contract.
The cardiologists won $ 5 million dollars when Renown's board of directors elected to settle the case with Sierra Nevada Cardiology after a full day of sworn testimony from Renown's President and C-E-O Jim Miller. Testimony which caused Judge Brent Adams to ask Miller at one point: "What's going on ?" after Miller failed to provide clear answers on the witness stand. The hospital board's next move was an emergency meeting to settle the case.

That settlement came on the heels of an order issued by the Federal Trade Commission striking down what the F-T-C and Nevada Attorney General called Renown's monopolization of cardiology care in northern Nevada.
As part of that order ten cardiologists were allowed to leave Renown in an effort by the F-T-C to restore competition and improve patient care.

Now, those cardiologists who left Renown to practice elsewhere, in accordance with the F-T-C ruling, have been kicked-off of the health plans which Renown owns and operates: Hometown Health and Senior Care Plus. Even though most of those doctors had been on those plans for years.
That means those two health plans won't pay those doctors to treat some of their longtime patients. Patients like Hal Wood and Pat Mcguire.

The Fact Finder team wanted to know why these doctors were suddenly kick-out of Hometown Health and Senior Care Plus, but Renown refused to answer our questions.

Dr. Kosta Arger thinks he knows the answer. "It's vindictiveness," he said.

Arger is one of the cardiologists who sued Renown. "I think they're bothered by the fact that we challenged them," Arger told News 4.

He says Renown is now punishing them, But Arger says it's the patients who really suffer.

"Think of yourself if you have a doctor of long standing, one day somebody says to you you can't see them anymore. You have to see somebody else. That's rather bothersome because you have developed a bond with that physician," Arger said.

No one is suggesting Renown's current team of cardiologists is not fully qualified. But forcing people to change doctors, as it appears Renown is doing, is a bitter pill to swallow for cardiology patients who are already facing serious health and heart issues.

We asked patient Pat Mcguire if the situation adds to his stress level.

"It certainly does," he told us.

News 4 would very much like to tell Renown's side of this story.
We asked to interview Renown President and C-E-O Jim Miller a number of times and he has not called us back.
We were also not allowed to attend a Renown board meeting on Monday night. It was held behind closed doors.