Friday, February 2, 2007

Doctors Shrugging

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2007/02/02/c1a_ERdocs_0202.html
"Thirteen of Palms West Hospital's 16 gastroenterologists quit the medical staff Thursday in a dispute over having to treat emergency patients.

The disagreement started after the Loxahatchee hospital in December required all of the specialists to see emergency patients. Most of the doctors refused unless they were paid to be on call. The physicians, who make an average of about $350,000 annually, wanted the hospital to pay them $1,000 a day to handle emergencies. Palms West denied that request."

"Palm Beach County's medical specialists have increasingly avoided treating emergency patients out of a fear of being sued and not getting paid by an uninsured patient. The perceived threat of a lawsuit has become a bigger fear as most specialists in the county have opted to not buy malpractice insurance because of its high costs."

"The group has been searching for a solution to the ER speciality shortage problem for three years. Last month, it punted the issue to the health care district."

"Any solution would take at least a year to implement because it would require state and federal approvals and the cooperation of dozens of physicians and most hospitals in the county. The Palms West physicians' action makes the shortage even worse."

This last quote is instructive. Note the article says that the "Palms West physicians' action makes the shortage even worse." Referring to this situation as a "shortage" is true in the sense that one usually ends up in a "shortage" of stuff for which he doesn't pay. In other words, if I go to a restaurant and demand a free dinner and they don't feed me, does this constitute a "shortage" of food?

How many people in non-medical areas are willing to work for free? If you need your car repaired would you demand that your mechanic fix it for free? Then why do people demand that doctors act as slaves? Heap on top of this the extraordinary risk posed by malpractice suits and prohibitively expensive malpractice insurance would you work under these conditions much less for free?

Why do people demand that doctors sacrifice themselves by going through school and grueling internships for 10 years, then face the threat of being sued frivolously for any non-miracle all in exchange for FREE? Because the morality of altruism demands such sacrifices.

It is about time that doctors say no more. Doctors should demand to work on their own terms and recognize they have a right to trade their services voluntarily in exchange for what the market will bear. If they want to work for free at times that is their choice. However, those that continue to work under these conditions are sanctioning their own demise.

Those that demand that doctors work for free will ultimately get what they pay for.

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