Michael Fratkin, the local doctor who has worked to transform end-of-life care both locally and through telemedicine technology, has been let go by St. Joseph Health. The SoCal-based Catholic health care organization has chosen not to renew Fratkin’s contract as medical director of its local inpatient palliative care program. Fratkin ran the program in conjunction with ResolutionCare, the palliative care organization he founded in 2014.
The decision apparently came as a surprise to Fratkin. Earlier this week he emailed a message to the local medical community — and later forwarded to ResolutionCare’s supporters — calling the news from St. Joe’s “a big and unwelcome local change.”
In the message Fratkin suggested that he wasn’t entirely sure why his contract wasn’t renewed. “The explanation the St. Joseph administration has given us is that they have chosen ‘to take the program in a different direction,’” Fratkin wrote. “We understand that they have begun recruitment to build an internally managed hospital and community-based palliative care program with foundation physicians.”
St. Joseph Health administrators confirmed this understanding, telling the Outpost in a statement that they’re creating an internal palliative care program “utilizing a team of caregivers who provide a seamless continuum of care in outpatient and inpatient settings … .” This new program will be based on a model used elsewhere in the massive and relatively new Providence St. Joseph Health system.
The statement goes on to say, “Dr. Fratkin and the physicians at ResolutionCare continue to hold privileges and be valued members of the medical staff at St. Joseph Hospital and Redwood Memorial in Fortuna.” They’ll even encourage referrals to him, they say, and plan to continue working “collaboratively” with Fratkin and ResolutionCare.
Reached for comment, Fratkin said he’d prefer to let his written statement speak for itself.
In recent years, Fratkin’s efforts to create an alternative approach to end-of-life care have allowed many people to consult with their physicians from home through video conferencing technology. His work with ResolutionCare has been featured in news stories from the PBS NewsHour, the California Report, the North Coast Journal, the Outpost and more. He’s also frequently thanked personally in the obituaries we run here on the Outpost.
His statement assures supporters that ResolutionCare will continue to serve patients and their families, including at local hospitals through referrals.
Below we’ve published Fratkin’s statement as well as the one from St. Joseph Health.
Below is an announcement to the Humboldt County medical community that we remain proud to be a part of. We’re sending it to all of you, because we want to make sure that our ResolutionCare community is up to speed about about a big and unwelcome local change. My time as the Medical Director of the St. Joseph Hospital INPATIENT Palliative Care Consultation Service is, unfortunately, about come to an end. However, you can rest assured that we are stronger than ever as we continue to make this world a better place to live in as well as to die from!
It is with great personal sadness that I announce that St. Joseph Hospital has chosen not to renew the contract for Medical Directorship of the Inpatient Palliative Care Consultation Service with ResolutionCare. The explanation the St. Joseph administration has given us is that they have chosen “to take the program in a different direction.” We understand that they have begun recruitment to build an internally managed hospital and community based palliative care program with foundation physicians.
Our team of specially trained palliative care professionals, (including the recently recruited fellowship-trained Hospice and Palliative Care physician, Elizabeth Giles, MD) have provided the best possible care to more than 2,500 seriously ill patients over nearly eleven years. It has been a profound privilege. Since I was approached by Sister Joleen Todd in 2007, this program has been built on the strength of many. Working these last five years at the side of our extraordinary colleague, Natalia Sobota, Palliative Care Social Worker, has been a labor of love.
As we move toward our new future, we are filled with gratitude for all of the people we have served together. Thank you to the staff of the hospital for your commitment to the well being of your neighbors at times of terrible challenge. From Environmental Services, Central Supply, the Lift Team, the Volunteers, and everybody else, it has been an honor to serve with you. To all the nurses, therapists, and unit secretaries whom we have supported and who have supported us, simply thank you. To my fellow physicians and friends, the work we have done together in service to those with serious illness and symptom burden has been a gift.
ResolutionCare will continue to serve people with illness and their families in this community and beyond. We will no longer be supported to provide on-demand Palliative Care Consultation for inpatients at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka or Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna beyond June 30, 2017.
We will continue to see our community patients when hospitalized and ResolutionCare welcomes referrals for consultative and continuity based care for seriously ill people and their families in the community who may benefit from the following:
- Improved Care Coordination
- Optimal Control of Symptoms
- Support for Empowered Advance Care Planning
- Psychological, Social, and Spiritual Support
Through our innovative use of technology and emerging alternative payment models, we will continue to grow our impact in this community we share with you, and beyond.
Please call our incredible office staff if you have any questions whatsoever.
Michael D. Fratkin, MD
Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Statement by Dr. David O’Brien, President, St. Joseph Health-Humboldt County; and Mark Provan, Regional Vice President, Post-Acute Services, St. Joseph Home Care Network, regarding Palliative Care services at St. Joseph Health:
St Joseph Health is establishing a Palliative Care Program to care for and support patients and their families.
This new care model is a best practice, utilizing a team of caregivers who provide a seamless continuum of care in outpatient and inpatient settings, working with our Home Care Network and like-minded partners. This model is being utilized in Providence St. Joseph Health facilities and has earned national recognition for quality and care coordination. We are excited to bring this important service to the people of Humboldt County.
Dr. Fratkin and the physicians at ResolutionCare continue to hold privileges and be valued members of the medical staff at St. Joseph Hospital and Redwood Memorial in Fortuna. We encourage referrals to Dr. Fratkin, and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with him and ResolutionCare though he will no longer serve as Medical Director of the Palliative Care Program at St. Joseph Health.
Background/More about Palliative Care
Palliative Care provides compassionate and comprehensive care to patients and their families.
In addition to medical care and support, the St. Joseph Health Palliative Care Program offers emotional support, guidance and counseling for patients and family as well as respite and grief counseling for family and loved ones.
Our Palliative Care services offer a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death and to reduce suffering. The primary focus of Palliative Care is to relieve physical symptoms related to a disease or medical state, enabling a patient and family to be together and address psychosocial and spiritual concerns.