Bill Toland's Dec. 26 front-page story ("Doctors' Flight Leaves Patients in the Lurch") points out an ongoing problem: the ability of patients to continue to see their physicians when a practice changes hospital or health system affiliation. While patients may be cared for by other physicians remaining in a practice, actions that limit access for business reasons ignore the relationship and trust that often exist between a patient and his or her physician.
Patient care is the paramount concern of physicians, and the use of severely restrictive clauses to limit the abilities of physicians to change their practice setting is harmful to the patient-physician relationship.
The Allegheny County Medical Society has called for an examination of and legislation to address this issue. At a minimum, patients should be notified that a physician is leaving a practice, the date of his or her leaving and a new location and contact information for a new office location.
As Mr. Toland's story notes, these restrictive clauses in contracts are not permitted for attorneys, noting that they restrict clients' access to the attorney of their choice. Patients deserve the same safeguards and ability to see the physician of their choice.
RAJIV R. VARMA, M.D.
Allegheny County Medical Society