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After 64 years as an independent practice, Victoria Surgical Associates will become a part of Citizens Medical Center, reflecting a nationwide trend as independent physician groups increasingly consolidate with hospitals.

Starting Oct. 1, Citizens Medical Center will employ four of Victoria Surgical Associates’ physicians: Dr. Shahid Hashmi, Dr. John Barber, Dr. Andrew Clemmons and Dr. Hannah Starkey Smith. Together, the four doctors will form their own practice within the county-owned hospital, called Citizens Victoria Surgical Associates.

The group began looking to partner with an area hospital to reduce the increasing costs and logistics that come with operating an independent practice, said Hashmi, who began working for the practice in 1987. Hashmi said the personnel and infrastructure needed to facilitate patients’ insurance and operate according to health care regulations made it easier for the physicians to switch from a group practice to being employed by a hospital.

“All that adds up,” Hashmi said. “We are not the first ones who have gone and looked for an entity, a hospital, who will take over the billing, the certification process, the overhead process, so that we can do what we are trained to do, (which is) to take care of our patients.”

Hashmi said although the office will move from its current location on DeTar Hospital Navarro’s campus to inside of Citizens Medical Center, the surgeons will continue performing surgeries at both Victoria hospitals depending on the patient’s preference. In addition to working with both major hospital systems in Victoria, Hashmi said he and his colleagues will continue to work with other hospitals in outlying counties, as they have in the past.

Victoria Surgical Associates’ decision to become affiliated with a hospital is one more physicians are making as the health care industry transforms.

The change has been stark: 2016 was the first year in which fewer than half of practicing physicians owned their own practice, according to a survey of U.S. doctors. Fewer doctors are opening solo practices, and more are deciding to work for a hospital or for another physician in a larger practice, according to research from the American Medical Association. For decades, fewer and fewer physicians have decided to work for themselves, instead opting to work for a larger institution.

Citizens Victoria Surgical Associates will continue to operate as a specialty surgery group, meaning they will perform the majority of procedures that fall under the general surgery category, Hashmi said. That includes everything from breast surgery to thyroid surgery. But while the forces of the health care industry are affecting the ownership structure of Victoria Surgical Associates, Hashmi said the practice’s commitment to personal health care will remain unchanged.

“I can proudly say that the grandparents that I operated on when I started the practice – now I’m taking care of their grandkids,” Hashmi said.

Ciara McCarthy covers local health issues for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can contact her by emailing cmccarthy@vicad.com.

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