Schenectady County

Surgical group cuts ties to Ellis

New York Spine & Neurosurgery, a private practice medical group, is severing its ties with Ellis Med

New York Spine & Neurosurgery, a private practice medical group, is severing its ties with Ellis Medicine in Schenectady and moving its surgical procedures to a competitor in Albany.

One of the group’s members is Dr. Brian Gordon, a Democratic Schenectady County legislator from Niskayuna and chairman of the Legislature’s Health Committee. Gordon has been a strong proponent of the county’s decision to build a new nursing home and a supporter of the Schenectady Free Clinic, saying both would help Ellis.

Gordon said the group will complete its transition to St. Peter’s Hospital within 90 days. “We will be consolidating surgeries at St. Peter’s. For our patients, there will not be a change. We will provide state-of-the-art spine and neurosurgical care for residents … there,” he said. The group performs about 650 surgeries per year, evenly divided between Ellis and St. Peter’s.

Following the transition, the group will no longer be in rotation for medical calls in Ellis’ Emergency Department.

Ellis Medicine spokeswoman Donna Evans said the hospital is disappointed the group “has elected to leave Ellis Medicine and stop providing service to the Schenectady community. The decision was sudden and took us by surprise.”

Evans said Dr. Phillip Marra, a neurosurgeon at Ellis for more than 20 years, will continue to cover the Emergency Department and perform neurosurgeries.

Evans said Ellis is also working with Schenectady Regional Orthopedic Associates, a private medical group, for orthopedic surgical coverage.

Dr. Robert Kennedy, chief of the Ellis medical staff and chairman of the hospital’s Medical, Dental and Executive Committee, said Ellis expects to recruit neurosurgeon replacements within the month.

“The people in Schenectady do not have to worry about having their needs met at Ellis Hospital. The hospital is confident about finding superior neurosurgeons who will step in and provide a high quality of care,” he said.

Kennedy said Ellis has offered neurosurgery for decades and has seen doctors come and go in the department at least twice over the years.

“What has remained is the backup staff. Two of the neurosurgical physician assistants have been there for at least 25 years, and they are committed to staying at the hospital,” Kennedy said. “Our concern is filling in the gaps for neurosurgery and coverage in the ER.”

Gordon said New York Spine & Neurosurgery’s affiliation with St. Peter’s “will allow us to maintain and improve on patient care.” St. Peter’s is spending $258 million to construct new patient care facilities, expand parking and upgrade the hospital’s infrastructure. The work includes converting patients beds to single occupancy, building new operating rooms and new pre- and post-operating areas and increasing the number of critical care beds.

The group, which incorporated in 2006, also consists of doctors Frank Genovese, who has practiced at Ellis since 1991, Thomas Lovely and Thomas McCormack. The later two have had limited exposure at Ellis.

McCormack said his medical group has worked closely with St. Peter’s in its expansion effort. “We have final approval on the rooms we will use for surgery and for equipment purchases,” he said. The group is also participating in the development of clinical pathways at the hospital. Pathways are used to manage the quality of health care in medical procedures.

Gordon said St. Peter’s “knows what it takes to run a neurosurgical and spine operating suite.”

McCormack said consolidating surgeries and on-call activities at St. Peter’s will allow the medical group to focus more energy on improving patient care, both at its “Spine and Brain Center of Excellence” on Troy-Schenenctady Road and at St. Peter’s. Also, by consolidating at St. Peter’s, the group will be able to provide one surgeon at St. Peter’s each day. Currently, the group bounces back and forth between the two hospitals, providing limited hours at each. Providing on-call services for two hospital emergency departments was stressful, group doctors said.

Genovese said the decision to separate from Ellis was difficult: “Ellis has been the hospital I have worked at for years.” He acknowledged, though, that the current trend is for medical specialists to affiliate themselves with single hospitals for competitive and professional reasons.

Gordon said the decision was difficult for him as well. “I still strongly support Ellis and its mission,” he said. As chair of the county Legislature’s Health Committee, he said, “I represent the people of Schenectady.”

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