Antelope Valley Hospital Suspends Emergency Orthopedic Services
The board of directors of Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster on Monday voted to suspend emergency orthopedic services at the facility because of a shortage of orthopedic surgeons willing to be on call for the emergency department, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. About six orthopedic surgeons in the area have privileges at the hospital. However, all but one have said they will not provide on-call emergency services because they do not practice locally or because the hospital cannot afford an increase in on-call pay, the Daily News reports.
Hospital board member June Snow said the physicians are no longer willing to take emergency calls because of increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums. The orthopedic surgeons have requested that Antelope Valley double their on-call pay to $1,500 per day to offset the increases, but hospital officials say the facility cannot afford a pay increase at that level.
Beginning this week, emergency orthopedic patients who come to Antelope Valley Hospital are being transferred to other hospitals that provide such care, including Lancaster Community Hospital and the University of California-Los Angeles Medical Center. Meanwhile, the hospital has begun "aggressively recruiting orthopedic surgeons" to Antelope Valley, which has not had a new orthopedic physician since 1995.
Ed Callahan, a spokesperson for the hospital, said, "Until we do have enough physicians, we felt it was in the best interest of the community" to make the decision to eliminate emergency orthopedic services. He added, "We want to stress that we came to this decision in conjunction with the medical staff, the board and administration. We felt we were doing a disservice and having a patient-safety issue if we did not take action." In reference to the physician-recruitment campaign, Callahan added, "The effort should have begun five years ago. We had no plan for recruitment, and now it's catching up to us."
Board member Steve Fox, who voted against dropping the service, said he did so because administrators "are treating the symptom and not the cause." He said that physicians are not accepting on-call duty in part because they are overworked and "the hospital is not doing a good enough job of recruitment" (Maeshiro, Los Angeles Daily News, 8/23).