Bristol Roundup Business Opinion

From Skeptic to Supporter: Dr. Kenneth Benoit

By Kurt A. Barwis, FACHE, President & CEO
1484743_700564060004636_6567864135581072783_nBRISTOL – When retired surgeon Kenneth Benoit, MD, first learned of our plans to be acquired by an investor-owned health system, he was skeptical. In fact, Dr. Benoit says he “had a bias against it.”
But, as a member of the Bristol Hospital Board of Directors, Dr. Benoit applied his 30 years of medical experience to evaluating the potential impact of affiliating with a national health system.  Now he regards the partnership of Yale-New Haven Hospital and Tenet Health “as the best of all worlds for Bristol Hospital, and I think the community will eventually see that as time goes on.”
What changed his mind?
As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Benoit has been on the front lines of the dramatic changes in health care in the last 40 years. Shortly after he joined Surgical Associates of Bristol in 1977, the three man group became one, and Dr. Benoit was a solo practitioner for a year. He recalls barely seeing his family for that year and promised his wife, he would find two surgical partners.
“We had a great run for 30 years,” he says of his partnership with Dr. Dan Scoppetta and Dr. Jim Sayre. All three of the surgeons took turns as chief of surgery and chief of staff at Bristol Hospital during their careers.
But when Dr. Benoit retired he already saw the difficult future for small physician groups. “Private practices are dying, and even big physician groups will become part of hospital foundations soon. It is just too difficult in this health care environment.”
During his due diligence visits to community hospitals owned by Vanguard Health Systems, and then Tenet Health, Dr. Benoit saw the same pressures on small hospitals were relieved by becoming part of investor-owned national health systems.
Dr. Benoit saw the benefits of investment in new technology, enhanced facilities, and advances in clinical care and service to the community at the hospitals he visited. But he wanted to know what the doctors thought.
He discovered, somewhat to his surprise, that the doctors told him “they were actually happier in their new situation. The hospitals had the technology and equipment they needed to help practice better quality medicine. Their morale seemed better.”
“I detected a better morale at all the community hospitals we visited. The doctors were content with their lifestyle and their practice of medicine. I did not get one complaint about any interference with the quality of their practice of medicine.”
By the end of the due diligence visits, Dr. Benoit was convinced.
“I started out with a bias against the for-profit health systems and I was completely sold at the end that it is the best thing for our community in Bristol.”

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