Hospitals in El Paso may soon get to independently hire physicians, dentists and other health care providers — a regional approach to lifting part of Texas' corporate practice of medicine ban.
A bill by Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, passed by the Senate today, would enable the El Paso County Hospital District to directly employ medical professionals to compensate for the severe shortage of practitioners in the area.
The El Paso hospital district currently serves more than 800,000 residents, many of whom are are uninsured.
Physician groups have long worried allowing hospitals to hire doctors would endanger patient safety. But this session, hospitals in far reaches of the state have argued hard to lift the ban in their communities, because they've struggled to lure doctors who have the resources or desire to set up private practices.
The "clinical independence" of physicians could be at stake, says Steve Levine, spokesman for the Texas Medical Association. The organization has argued that hospitals, focusing on their bottom line, could try to determine treatment for patients.
Before the bill passed, TMA worked with the El Paso hospitals affected by the bill to ensure it includes measures to protect patients. "This bill protects patients by ensuring that the district’s medical executive board, a physician-led group, is in charge of the practice of medicine by all physicians," Levine says.