Rhode Island hospital opts for local radiology service

A Rhode Island hospital that had considered outsourcing its radiology reading services to Massachusetts General Hospital's teleradiology program instead has chosen to keep its contract for radiology services close to home.

Beginning October 1, Kent County Memorial Hospital, a 359-bed facility in Warwick, will hand over the management of its radiology department to XRA Medical Imaging, a radiology group also based in Warwick.

The decision to retain a local radiology practice comes after Kent earlier this year had a tentative agreement to hire Boston-based MGH to handle radiologic readings. News of the pending deal ignited a firestorm among Rhode Island radiologists, the Rhode Island Radiology Society (RIRS), and Kent's current radiology services provider, Toll Gate Radiology, also of Warwick.

Local radiologists accused MGH of being predatory and raiding their business, and some claimed that the MGH/Kent deal could set a precedent for academic centers using teleradiology to take over reading services from local groups.

In June, Kent and MGH ended negotiations, with both entities saying only that a suitable agreement could not be reached, and that they had decided not to pursue a relationship.

XRA gets the nod

XRA was among three Rhode Island radiology practices vying for the Kent contract. The practice has 10 full-time radiologist positions and provides image reading for South County Hospital Healthcare System in Wakefield, RI, as well as XRA's own six outpatient imaging centers in the state.

Kent spokesman Brian Wallin said XRA "offered us the added depth of clinical expertise that we felt was very important to advancing our hospital's scope of services. Particularly what they brought to the table was this depth in subspecialties, such as musculoskeletal, women's imaging, and a number of different areas."

Toll Gate, which has provided radiology services to Kent for the past three decades, will continue to work with Kent on an interim basis until October 1. Wallin added that Toll Gate "has been very helpful through this transition, and they will be here through the end of that process."

Possible merger

In the meantime, Toll Gate co-owner Dr. Anthony Bruzzese said the practice is discussing a possible merger with XRA. Toll Gate currently has its own office space and three full-time radiologists, and uses NightHawk Radiology Holdings of Coeur d' Alene, ID, to handle weekend and off-hours reading.

Given the radiologist shortage in Rhode Island and the time it would take XRA to hire additional staff, Bruzzese said Toll Gate is very willing to work with and possibly join XRA to keep radiology services at Kent flowing smoothly.

XRA also is open to the possibility of combining resources with Toll Gate. "Over the next several weeks, we will look at ways to take advantage of the strengths of the two groups," said XRA president Dr. Jerrold Robins.

Robins is among local radiologists who are pleased to see Kent keep its business within the state. "I think it is good to tap into the local radiology resources," he said. "We look forward to bringing this expertise to Kent."

By Wayne Forrest
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
September 6, 2007

Related Reading

Mass General, Kent Hospital halt teleradiology talks, July 10, 2007

MGH teleradiology plan rankles Rhode Island radiologists, April 3, 2007

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