City of Hope, 2010 – Present

In 2010, Garry South was hired by City of Hope, the renowned National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Los Angeles County, to develop and implement a strategy to respond to an effort by the doctors’ group affiliated with the institution to damage its reputation. The doctors’ group was fighting the hospital’s attempt to move the physicians under a non-profit foundation, to better align with the recently passed Affordable Care Act and its model of accountable care organizations (ACOs) (Note: It is against the law in California for hospitals to employ doctors directly, called a “ban on the corporate practice of medicine.”)

The doctors’ group had brought on Democratic political hired guns in Sacramento to run legislation harmful to City of Hope’s interests, and attack its executives, and were engaging in numerous efforts to call into question the effect on patient care of moving physicians under a non-profit foundation — including sending letters to current and former patients using scare tactics. City of Hope found itself uncomfortably in a highly politicized environment it had never had to operate in before, and its engaging South was an unusual move to counter the attacks.

The tussle ultimately got very ugly, with dueling lawsuits filed, and high political officeholders taking sides. In this strongly Democratic state, with heavy Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature, South developed a strategy that included emphasizing City of Hope’s union background (it was actually founded in 1913 as a sanitarium for mostly Jewish union members suffering from tuberculosis in the East and Midwest to come West and try to get better), and its heavily unionized workforce, having contracts and generally amicable relationships with several major labor unions, including SIEU and the California Nurses Association. South also implemented a crash program of bringing Democratic elected officials, including statewide officeholders, to campus to be briefed on its groundbreaking work on cutting-edge cancer treatments, and to explain and defend the plan to establish a non-profit foundation. In addition, influential members of the Legislature, including the chair of the critical Assembly Health Committee, were persuaded to help defeat the punitive legislation that had been introduced.

Ultimately, City of Hope prevailed in this test of wills, and a vast majority of doctors agreed to continue their association with the institution and move under the non-profit foundation. South is still a consultant to City of Hope today.

Capitol Weekly: The Skinny