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HOSPITAL SEEKS EMERGENCY ROOM DOC ALTERNATIVES.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Antelope Valley Hospital officials are looking for alternatives for staffing the emergency room with specialist physicians after granting a third group of specialists an increase in pay.

The hospital board will form a committee to look at other ways of reimbursing physicians after granting demands for more money by obstetricians, general surgeons and now orthopedic surgeons, a board member said.

``Now everyone who is not getting $1,500 a day is complaining like we are treating them like chopped liver. I think everyone is going to want $2,000 a day. That's $20,000 for 10 specialties. We can't do it,'' director June Snow said. ``We created an ad hoc committee to look into other ways to reimburse physicians.''

Hospital directors in a 3-2 vote Monday approved reinstating emergency orthopedic services and doubling the doctors' daily on-call rate of pay to $1,500.

Directors Deborah Rice and Dr. Don Parazo cast the dissenting votes.

Rice and Parazo could not be reached for comment, but board chairman Dr. Abdallah Farrukh said they were concerned that the hospital does not have enough specialists to cover all orthopedic needs.

Farrukh said a shortage of on-call specialists is a ``universal'' issue that is being experienced by other hospitals.

Also there are no patient transfer agreements whereby Antelope Valley Hospital would pay the accepting hospital and doctor for the patient's care.

``We have to develop a paying mechanism, which takes time,'' Farrukh said.

It's unthinkable that an institution the size of Antelope Valley Hospital would have to send a patient with a broken bone to another hospital for treatment, director Steve Fox said.

``I'd rather have something than nothing right now,'' Fox said. ``We've got some of orthopedics covered and we're trying to get more.''

The vote essentially ratified action taken by Farrukh, who as chairman assured orthopedic doctors more pay and convinced one of them to provide on-call services over the Labor Day weekend.

Orthopedic services were suspended in August because there were not enough orthopedic surgeons to provide on-call services in the emergency room and the board initially balked at paying more money.

The board in July increased the pay for on-call obstetricians from $350 to $2,000 a day, and on Sept. 3 doubled the on-call pay for general, vascular and chest surgeons to $1,500 a day.

Three orthopedic surgeons will provide coverage for the next three months in exchange for the higher pay. The doctors will work15 to 21 days month, but directors said they will provide full coverage in the month of September.

Snow said she and Parazo will serve on the committee, which will look at different ways to seek reimbursement for uninsured patients and talk to orthopedic hospitals about taking patients from Antelope Valley Hospital.

Snow said the hospital last year provided $57 million in unfunded care.

One possibility might be to form a group of emergency room doctors that would handle billing for care given, Snow said.

``That group does all the billing, and all the money goes to a pool for the group, and quarterly they split the pool after they pay the bills,'' Snow said.

For patients the doctors are unable or decline to treat, the group would pay someone else to take care of them if they are transferred to another facility, Snow said.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 15, 2004
Words:566
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