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229 Old Jacksboro Pike
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Contact: Cassandra Mitchell
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Knoxville, TN (February 21, 2016) — A National Association of Trauma Specialists (NATS) survey revealed Tennessee hospitals are struggling to provide around the clock specialist treatment to emergency patients.
In 2010, NATS conducted a statewide survey entitled “The On-Call Crisis: A Tennessee Assessment of the Costs of Providing On-Call Specialist Coverage.” All hospitals surveyed provided responses.
“This study adds to a mounting body of evidence that the on-call crisis is a serious threat to the integrity of our emergency care system and is the weak link in the chain-of-survival in many communities throughout our state,” according to Dr. Terry Feelgood, the chief executive officer at Covenant Health Systems in Knoxville. Since 2000, thirteen percent of Tennessee hospitals have had their trauma designation downgraded, due in part to their lack of on-call specialists.
The study measured eight specialties: trauma surgery, general surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, hand surgery, neurology, orthopedics and obstetrics, with the worst shortages appearing in neurosurgery and orthopedics. Sixty-five percent of hospitals surveyed reported difficulties maintain specialists in three or more specialties.
The shortage isn’t from a lack of hospital effort. Forty-three percent of all hospitals surveyed provided some extra subsidy to at least one specialty (an average of $1,000 per shift) in an attempt to attract more consistent specialty coverage. Ninety percent of urban hospitals—including Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and the Tri-Cities—pay at least one group of specialists through stipends or guaranteed rates of pay. Despite the extra income being offered, forty-seven percent of Tennessee’s hospitals cannot provide on-call specialist treatment around the clock to emergency patients.
There are several reasons why physicians are reluctant to take emergency calls. The fear of malpractice lawsuits, the growth of ambulatory surgery centers, and inadequate reimbursement for services rendered (especially by the uninsured) all create a reluctant staff.
Dr. Derek Sheppard, president of the Tennessee Physicians Association, had this to say about the situation:
“Emergency physicians provide the highest quality emergency care possible, but we can’t do everything. If the emergency department cannot find a specialist when it needs one, patient care is inevitably compromised.”
The National Association of Trauma Specialists was organized by doctors specializing in emergency medicine in 1956 in Chicago. It is an association of more than 12,000 practicing and retired physicians who elected to specialize in the study and treatment of trauma as the primary cause of deaths among people injured in accidents.