Louisiana doctor is named president of HelixCare


Helix Health has recruited a soft-spoken southeastern Louisiana doctor and handed him the formidable job of organizing hundreds of physicians into a force that can help its four hospitals cope with the fierce competition that is overtaking the medical business.

Dr. Michael C. Tooke, medical director of the Ochsner Clinic, a group practice with 425 physicians at 16 sites in southeastern Louisiana, will bring to the job "experience in working with just the kind of situation Helix is trying to create in Baltimore," said James A. Oakey, president and chief operating officer of Helix Health, who announced the appointment yesterday.

Dr. Tooke will become president and CEO of HelixCare, a separate physician-run organization that was started with a $30 million investment when Helix Health was formed by the merger of Church Home and Hospital, Franklin Square Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital of Maryland and Union Memorial Hospital.

Of three hospital aggregations now either in force or in planning stages in Maryland, Helix Health, comprising four neighborhood-based hospitals, has gone the farthest in integrating its components, by merging them under a single ownership and management in hope of creating a force that can compete for contracts in a fast-changing health insurance world.

In addition to its four hospitals, it also operates 10 primary care centers in eastern Baltimore, eastern Baltimore County and Harford County, and 19 other locations that range from nursing homes to clinics.

HelixCare, which Dr. Tooke will head, will be in charge of providing doctors, who will offer both primary care in an office or clinic setting and inpatient care in the hospitals when needed.

Shaping his new job will be the forces currently reshaping the business itself: "The realization within the health care industry that resources are finite and the introduction of that industry to true market forces," he said yesterday.

To meet that new competitive challenge, Dr. Tooke's first assignment will be to build HelixCare's initial 30-doctor partnership into 150 over the next five years, while shaping a competitive force from the partnership and an additional 690 physicians who have applied for membership in the organization.

That challenge played a large part in his decision to come here, because by deciding to "bring in doctors not as employees and not as some kind of loose 'affiliates,' but rather with a well-capitalized doctor-run organization of their own, Helix has pushed its whole strategy well up to the forefront of innovation in health care," he said.

Dr. Tooke, 47, will move to the Baltimore area with his wife, Susan Piggett, and his daughters, Merideth, 16, and Katherine, 14.

A 20-mile-a-week runner, Dr. Tooke relaxes by traveling with his family.

He recently took a 25th-anniversary trip with his wife on the Orient Express from London to Vienna, but "a more typical trip for us might be to rent a recreational vehicle and drive to the Grand Canyon," he said.

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