University Physician Group seeks bankruptcy protection

Detroit Free Press |

--The head of the University Physician Group reassured patients Thursday that they will still be able to see their doctors following the group's filing for bankruptcy protection.

"First and foremost, I want to emphasize that continuity of patient care is our top priority during this period of restructuring," CEO Charles Shanley told the Free Press.

The large, nonprofit multi-specialty physician practice group has lost more than half of its doctors in the last decade, according to court documents. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization this week in federal court in Detroit.

The group is affiliated with Wayne State University School of Medicine and provides health care services through places such as the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, the Detroit Medical Center and Beaumont Health.

In an affidavit, Shanley said the group has determined its clinical operations are "no longer sustainable in the absence of long term external subsidy."

"Structural factors include a greater than 50% decline in the number of physicians over the past decade resulting in a corresponding reduction in clinical revenue," he said.

Shanley told the Free Press the goal is to have no disruptions in patient care.

"Patients are still going to be able to see their doctors, and our UPG doctors are going to be able to care for their patients," he said in an e-mail. "We have over 300 physicians at UPG serving thousands of patients throughout the Detroit community. Our commitment to provide access to high quality care from UPG physicians in the communities we serve is unwavering."

In court filings, the group is asking, among other things, to be released from leases on six properties. The properties, located in Detroit, Dearborn and Rochester, do not house ongoing operations, have above-market rate rents or are redundant or provide excess capacity, the filings say.

Shanley said in his affidavit that the group intends to use the Chapter 11 process "to support clinical operations on the Detroit Medical Center central campus and ultimately suspend operations at all suburban sites. Corporate administration functions will relocate to Midtown.

"... UPG intends to become the premier academic clinical practice on the Detroit Medical Center central campus serving the Detroit community and Wayne State University School of Medicine."

University Physician Group employs 873 hourly and salaried workers. It has asked the court to let it continue to pay its employees.

Back in May, the DMC announced that it would not renew its longstanding contract with the group when it expired. But both parties agreed on an extension and then announced in September they had finalized a new five-year agreement.

Contact staff writer Ann Zaniewski at 313-222-6594 or azaniewski@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski.

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