Audit: Medical education trips turned into lavish family vacations

Though you might consider this a small regional squabble, the following stood out for us as a sign of times that are soon to be gone.  The story features seemingly free-spending physicians who traveled to conferences at luxurious resorts on a struggling public hospital's dime--and the calumny that followed.

According to a county audit covering three years of financial statements, Santa Clara County (Ca.)'s Valley Medical Center paid "abusive and non-compliant" travel expenses for physicians to attend conferences in countries around the world, trips that ended up costing the hospital $650,000 per year. Destinations for doctors working with the country's hospital of last resort included Switzerland, Italy, the Bahamas, the West Indies, China and Aruba.

According to the hospital's rules, doctors can spend up to $4,500 per year for Continuing Medical Education credits, but in these cases, single trips averaged more than $3,000 a piece, sometimes including fares for family members. Meanwhile, physicians earn salaries averaging $240,000 per year, along with more than 10 weeks of paid vacation and holidays.

Find out more about this dispute:
- read this San Jose Mercury News item

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