Hospitals spend big on temp surgeons

Of late, general surgeons have started leaving their practices--and often, are going to work as temps instead. Full-time locum tenens surgeons can make $250,000 or more a year, or twice what they might make in private practice. The growing availability of temp general surgeons has proved especially helpful to hospitals with overloaded emergency departments, particularly given that traditional on-call arrangements have been falling through of late.

Hospitals who hire locum tenens general surgeons, however, must brace themselves for some significant costs. Such surgeons cost $1,500 a day, or $650 to $900 for the physician and roughly the same for the staffing agency, plus the physician's travel and lodging expenses, according to temporary medical placement firm Staff Care. Larger hospitals can see millions sapped from the bottom line if they need multiple locum tenens general surgeons.

Take the experience of Stillwater Medical Center in Oklahoma. The hospital plans to hire temporary surgeons this spring, when one of its three local general surgeons leaves, but it will pay a heavy price. In 2007, it cost the hospital $1.2 million to cover for departing anesthesiologists with temp replacements, contributing to a $4 million drop in operating income. Adding temp surgeons won't be easy either.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece

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