San Diego Trauma Center Reopens After Orthopedic Surgeons Sign New Contract
The Palomar Medical Center's trauma unit reopened yesterday after its orthopedic surgeons ended a 15-day "standoff" with hospital administrators by signing a three-year contract, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The trauma center, the only such unit in northern San Diego County, had been on "bypass" during the dispute, with trauma cases diverted to other centers. Under the contract, the orthopedic surgeons will receive $1,500 to $2,300 each -- depending on the day of the week -- for "every 24-hour period they are on call," in addition to any private or government insurance they can obtain for patient care. The previous contract paid them $1,300 a day. The surgeons will make an additional $400 per day to be on call for the hospital's emergency room -- a shift that can coincide with trauma duty -- although such duty will not be voluntary. The hospital deleted several clauses opposed by the doctors, including a requirement that orthopedic surgeons pay $60,000 per day if "their inability to show up for a trauma case on time resulted in a federal penalty against the hospital." Instead, the doctors agreed to cover the cost of finding a replacement.
Administrators also eliminated a clause prohibiting the surgeons from saying "anything damaging to the hospital's reputation," as well as a provision granting the administration, and not the doctors, the authority to set the surgeons' work schedules. "This contract preserves our right to practice medicine without undue pressure from administrators," Dr. Patrick O'Meara, one of the center's eight orthopedic surgeons, said. The hospital, however, did not grant the surgeons' request for an upgrade in surgical equipment and for an increase in nursing and scrub tech staffing. Hospital spokesperson Tamara Hemmerly said that administrators instead gave "verbal assurances" that they will "work cooperatively to address those issues." The Union-Tribune reports that the hospital's anesthesiologists, trauma surgeons and neurosurgeons are expected to negotiate their own contract "shortly" (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.