Holly Springs doctor breaks from WakeMed

akenney@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2013 

— A local doctor’s office is ending its relationship with WakeMed Health & Hospitals. Tham Sivaraj, one of Holly Springs’ longest-serving physicians, has broken his contract with the hospital, ending his two-year affiliation and resuming his independent practice.

WakeMed announced the change in a release stating that its “associated primary care practice” at Holly Springs Medical Center will close on April 30. But Sivaraj will resume practice as Neighborhood Family Care in the same location on May 6.

Sivaraj opened his practice in 2001 and joined WakeMed’s Speciality Physicians Network in 2011. Like many doctors in recent years, he hoped that affiliating with a larger hospital system would ease his management load. But he offered his resignation last month, chafing at a difference in approaches to healthcare.

“My style was slightly different. I had open access to patients,” he said in an interview Thursday. “The style was different. I’ll just leave it there.”

WakeMed also will withdraw its radiology and imagery units from the site, though Sivaraj will bring on his own x-ray machine. The hospital asked Holly Springs patients to bring their business to other WakeMed practices in Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Apex and Morrisville.

“This is not unusual, that with physicians who go from being their own practice to being employed by a facility, sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” said Debbie Laughery, vice president of public relations for WakeMed, who declined to say whether the departure was amicable.

“It’s happened on several occasions, both with us and with several facilities. It’s just part of the maturing of the physician practice model,” she said.

With the departure WakeMed loses some of its foothold in Holly Springs, an affluent and growing market.

Rex Healthcare already has opened a large medical building in town and plans to build a 50-bed hospital, pending a legal challenge in the state’s “certificate of need” process. WakeMed has dropped its challenge to the plan in exchange for Rex’s cooperation on another project, but Novant Health’s appeal still blocks the way.

Laughery said the hospital isn’t concerned about losing market share in Holly Springs, given the proximity of its Cary hospital and affiliated practices.

For his part, Sivaraj isn’t worried about taking the reins again, or about the new competition.

“We were the very first medical practice in Holly Springs,” he said. “There was nobody for the next six years.”

He saw his last WakeMed patient on Thursday, and he’s preparing now for the reshuffling of the office.

His new practice, Neighborhood Family Care, will employ 10 people, including five former employees.

He’ll offer more of his patient-personal style, he said, and he may reduce patient costs now that the practice isn’t subject to hospital fees.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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