RMC ER

The outside of the emergency department at Regional Medical Center in Anniston. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/file)

Regional Medical Center canceled its contract with the private firm that staffs its emergency room after the company failed to pay its doctors Thursday, the hospital’s CEO said Friday.

RMC hired Birmingham-based Aristo ER in February 2016 under a contract worth $1.26 million annually. RMC CEO Louis Bass said Friday that while the hospital had met all its financial obligations to Aristo, the company had failed to pay physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners for the previous month’s work.

An attempt to reach Rich Street, owner of Aristo,  for comment Friday afternoon was unsuccessful.

“Something has happened within their company that has caused them not to make this payroll in a timely manner,” Bass said Friday. The hospital doesn’t know why the company didn’t pay, he said, but has moved quickly to cancel the contract, make sure the emergency department is staffed and find a replacement firm.

“It’s a difficult thing for the hospital,” Bass said. “It’s a terrible thing for the practitioners.”

Bass said patients should have noticed no difference in their care as a result of the changes.

“All of the providers have continued to work and fulfill the shifts in spite of what’s happened,” he said. “There’s been zero effect on the patients that have come through the door.”

Bass said RMC had assured all of the emergency room’s practitioners they will be paid for any work performed from Thursday on.

Later Friday, Bass said RMC had selected American Physician Partners’ AlignMD division. AlignMD was RMC’s ER contractor before Aristo ER was hired. Bass said that “virtually all” of the practitioners who’d worked at RMC under Aristo would get an opportunity to remain with the new firm.

As part of the Aristo contract, apart from staffing and managing physicians in the emergency rooms of RMC's main campus in Anniston and RMC Jacksonville, the company was to provide expertise from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Emergency Medicine. The goal was to improve the service at both emergency rooms.

An attempt to reach UAB officials for comment on whether the hospital was still working with Aristo was unsuccessful Friday.

In March 2016, Aristo’s Rich Street said the company had hired two directors to oversee the Anniston and Jacksonville emergency departments.

“We’re trying to provide better leadership,” he said at the time.

RMC initially resisted the release of Aristo’s contract when the company was hired, though the hospital’s board of directors is a public entity subject to Alabama’s open records laws. The Star requested a copy of the contract in March 2016; the hospital initially denied the request, but eventually complied that June.