Over a series of phone calls, she fills in the details: In late 2008, she endured several near-death experiences as her parent company informed her that they needed to find a buyer for the troubled facility or the doors would have to close. For many months, she says, she convinced them to push back their deadline. “I was, like, ‘Is that even legal? To shut the doors when patients are in treatment?’ I think it was one of those bullshit men’s power plays.” (The CEO of DSI, Leif Murphy, did not re-spond to messages left on his voice mail and with his assistant.)
As her conflicts with DSI increased, DuPree tells me she considered buying the business but was convinced by her lawyer that she would “have to put on her big-girl pants” and let the hospital close for a time—or else her new entity would be responsible for the old facil-ity’s debt. In the midst of all this, DuPree underwent surgery to correct a colon problem. (“No coincidence that my guts are twisting literally while my guts are twisting emotionally,” she writes in an e-mail.) “It’s been hell,” she tells me on the phone February 3, the night be-fore the clinic is due to close. “Utter hell.” Although her private practice still operates out of a space she’s leasing in the building, her 85 hospital employees are being laid off.
“She was ahead of the curve,” says Greg Wozniak, president and CEO of St. Mary’s, where DuPree’s practice used to be based. “And candidly, our whole industry is evolving to that, to trying to change the model so we’re looking at the whole person.”
She is organizing a group of 20 to 40 doctors, some of them her former colleagues, who would take over ownership of the center, in partnership with a local hospital. And while she has a plan B—to relocate the program within another hospital—what she really wants is to develop a partnership that would enable her to remain in the facility and resume her program there.
One chief of a nonprofit Pennsylvania hospital is strongly considering the idea of going into business with DuPree. “We’d do our whole range of women’s services [in the revived fa-cility],” he says, while asking not to be named because of the ongoing negotiations. “[Her model] is much more of a healing setting . . . What we can give her is the infrastructure and support to [allow her to] be an inspirational leader and surgeon. We can put things there that can give her the [patient] volume, and we can go back to the in-surers” to negotiate in-network coverage.
“Places like what she created will win,” the hospital chief tells me. “The reality is that Beth has forced all of us to look at what we do in health care. Everybody wanted her to fail, because we don’t want change. But my team said, ‘There’s good stuff here and we need to look at it.’ ”
Just as DuPree is gathering partners—no mean feat in this economy—it turns out that Washington may also have a say in her plans. Concerned about the issues (ethical and financial, among others) raised by doctors referring patients to companies they own, members of Congress proposed legislation banning physician ownership of hospitals. For now, it’s in limbo. “But what if in six months it rears its ugly head?” she says. And so Dr. DuPree goes to Washington, to lobby Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey Jr.