Doctors can't be expected to work without compensation
SHELDON J. TAUB, M.D
This is in response to the Jan. 25 article “3 hospitals defied patient-dumping rules, state says.” I have been a practicing physician in Palm Beach County for more than 28 years, and, as Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a-changin’!”
No longer are doctors rushing to the land of milk and honey, but they are leaving in droves. In the past five years in northern Palm Beach County alone, eight gastroenterologists have retired or moved, and only one new physician has arrived. Why? Because of the ongoing issues of tort reform, decreasing insurance reimbursement and rising practice expenses, including malpractice premiums.
None of the colleagues who I know makes $350,000 a year. At an average of a 60-hour work week for 48 weeks a year, that is about $100 an hour, or a little more than a plumber or electrician makes, but less than your average professional golf instructor makes. We still take emergency calls and treat the indigent. Fourteen gastroenterologists on staff at Jupiter Medical Center will cover emergency care for our patients. We are asking only to be indemnified for those indigent, who often are the sickest of the patients. My colleagues do not turn away care in urgent situations.
In the county, approximately 18 percent of emergency room patients are without health insurance. How many businesses can survive when one out of five of their customers (patients) do not pay for services rendered?
This is a major problem and is only getting worse. The situation may be to adopt the proposal that has been presented in California and Massachusetts – that is, all residents have health insurance.
Somewhere tucked away in the article at the bottom of Page 14A, the reporter alludes to the salient issues: Gastroenterologists are paid the least in reimbursement and have the highest malpractice premiums. He further went on to say that we want immunity from lawsuits, especially frivolous cases, and need help to recruit new physicians.
Only when these issues are resolved and health insurance is available for all residents in the state would we be able to at least begin to deal with the problem at hand.
SHELDON J. TAUB, M.D
Editor’s note: Dr. Sheldon J. Taub is the former chief of staff and past president of the Board of Trustees of Jupiter Medical Center. He is also president-elect of the Florida Gastroenterological Society.