Trend: On-call shortage closing trauma depts

Despite a move towards specialized pay structures for trauma coverage, nearly one-quarter of trauma centers have had to shut down a service due to a lack of MDs available for on-call duty, according to the results of a recent survey. The study, conducted by healthcare compensation research firm Sullivan, Cotter and Associates, found that 13 percent of non-trauma centers have also had to shut down a service for similar reasons. To encourage physicians to provide on-call coverage, organizations are trying varied strategies, including guaranteed levels of payment for services, a subsidy for malpractice when MDs are called in, fee for service payments for uninsured patients, hourly rates for call response and payments base on Relative Value Units.

The highest on-call pay rates noted by the survey include neurosurgery (median daily stipend of $950), orthopedic surgery (median daily stipend of $900) and trauma surgery (median daily stipend of $1,100). According to survey director Kim Mobley, on-call pay rates are evolving across the board, but "it appears that there is some relationship between the likelihood of being called in to work and the on-call rate paid."

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