Cleveland Clinic Florida has forged a deal with Jupiter Medical Center to allow Cleveland Clinic neurologists to see patients at the Jupiter hospital.
The move is a step toward solving a problem for Cleveland Clinic doctors. Lacking privileges at Palm Beach County hospitals, their patients have had to be treated at Cleveland Clinic’s Weston hospital if they wanted to be admitted under the care of their Cleveland Clinic doctors. Now with the Jupiter Medical collaboration, Cleveland Clinic neurologists in Palm Beach County have a place to attend to patients who must go to the hospital for strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.
On a larger scale, the move also is a bid by Cleveland Clinic to capture the wealthy, insured patients of northern Palm Beach County.
Indeed, Cleveland Clinic is moving its neurological practice from West Palm Beach to a Palm Beach Gardens office, which is set to open in May.
“Bernie Fernandez (Cleveland Clinic Florida’s chief executive) told me the Cleveland Clinic’s aspiration is to move up farther north than their West Palm Beach office, and they saw neurology as an area of focus,” said John Couris, Jupiter Medical Center chief executive.
Couris said the neurology agreement with Cleveland Clinic “is not an affiliation. We’re working together. It’s a cooperative arrangement.” He added that there are no plans to have more Cleveland Clinic doctors obtain privileges at Jupiter Medical Center.
In an email, Dr. Bernie Fernandez said this about the Palm Beach Gardens office: “It was important for us to establish a practice in Palm Beach Gardens because many of our patients come from there,” including patients from the Treasure Coast.
Fernandez said the Palm Beach Gardens office will have four neurologists on staff and two family practice doctors.
But Fernandez would not confirm the Jupiter Medical arrangement, saying only: “We are in discussions with Jupiter Medical Center regarding inpatient neurology services.”
Cleveland Clinic Florida expanded from Broward County to the CityPlace Tower office building in West Palm Beach in 2007. Since then, the center’s presence has grown, with the center taking more and more office space to serve well-heeled residents, especially those on Palm Beach.
But sources say the center’s Palm Beach County growth has been rocky at times.
According to sources close to the center, there has been some turnover among physicians on staff, caused in part by doctors’ chafing under the rules of working under a large bureaucracy. Some physicians privately say that they have been frustrated by missed phone calls from patients, scheduling problems and the push to limit time with patients so more people can be seen in one day.
Now Cleveland Clinic’s care will be split between two Palm Beach County offices, instead of all services being under one roof. “I feel sorry for the patients,” one doctor said.
Cleveland Clinic encountered turnover issues seven years ago at another Florida facility. According to the Naples News, Cleveland Clinic sold an 83-bed hospital in 2006 after the Naples campus had been plagued with “high turnover of its employed physicians,” among other issues. There was also speculation of financial issues related to the sale. At the time, a Cleveland Clinic officials said the move was not based on finances.
In Palm Beach County, however, Cleveland Clinic Florida’s commitment remains strong.
The center has about 30,000-square feet of space at CityPlace Tower, but sources say it is looking to find larger space in West Palm Beach to offer a greater range of services.
One possibility: A new office building by Related Cos. dubbed Gateway Tower at CityPlace. The property, slated to rise 12 stories, is on the piece of land in the median of Okeechobee Boulevard informally known as the “triangle.” Word is Cleveland Clinic could be interested in taking 60,000 square feet or more of the 200,467-square-foot building.
At the same time, Cleveland Clinic is moving forward with its plan to open a Palm Beach Gardens office in May, at 4520 Donald Ross Rd., Suite 200.
As part of the shift, two prominent neurologists who worked in the West Palm Beach clinic no longer are employed there, which some observers believe is a major loss for the Cleveland Clinic.
According to knowledgeable sources, the contracts of both doctors were not renewed, even though the doctors are highly regarded. Dr. Marvin Mordes, a renowned expert in headache and Parkinson’s disease, now has opened an office for private patients at West Palm Beach’s MorseLife. He did not return phone calls seeking comment. The other neurologist, Dr. Maurice Hanson, part of the Cleveland Clinic’s Movement Disorders Program and a specialist on aging and Parkinson’s disease, could not be reached for comment.
Instead, Cleveland Clinic so far has assigned three neurologists to staff the Palm Beach Gardens office and see patients at Jupiter Medical. They are Dr. Michelle Dompenciel, Dr. Danita Jones and Dr. Linda Pao, according to Jupiter Medical spokeswoman Stacey Brandt.
Couris said the three Cleveland Clinic neurologists will cover hospital visits for Jupiter Medical hospital patients. The three doctors supplement the five neurologists that now see patients at Jupiter Medical, which is a benefit to Jupiter Medical, too. Since most neurologists see patients on an out-patient basis, coverage of hospitalized neurology patients has been a challenge, Couris said.
But there’s no denying the fact that the wealthy population of northern Palm Beach County is an irresistible draw for Cleveland Clinic — and for other medical providers, too.
JFK Medical Center in Atlantis recently opened an emergency room in Palm Beach Gardens. And Tenet Healthcare, which owns Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, is hoping to build another hospital in Palm Beach Gardens in partnership with Scripps Florida and Florida Atlantic University. (Jupiter Medical Center has objected to the proposed hospital, saying it isn’t needed.)
Are all these hospital companies coming because there’s no quality medical care available in northern Palm Beach County?
Couris said no. “The quality already exists here. These entities are coming because of the demographics.” If that’s not the case, he added, “Why not go out to Lake Okeechobee?”
Word is that Cleveland Clinic long has considered having a hospital in Palm Beach County so its doctors can see patients nearby. In recent years, rumors have circulated about a purchase of Jupiter Medical Center or Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, although Cleveland Clinic always has denied interest in buying a Palm Beach County hospital.
Although Couris acknowledged the Cleveland Clinic deal might help Jupiter Medical fend off the competition, he said patients shouldn’t pick doctors based only on a famous brand name. They still should do their homework and evaluate doctors based on their background, ratings (such as those found on healthgrades.com) and outcomes, Couris said. The same is true of a hospital’s safety ratings and outcomes, he said.
Alexandra Clough writes about the economy, real estate and the law.