Surgeons' walk out in protest
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jan. 2) - Four West Virginia hospitals cut staff hours and transferred more patients Thursday because of a surgeons' walkout to protest malpractice costs
State officials planned to announce an emergency program Thursday afternoon to ensure medical service to patients in the state's northern panhandle.
More than two dozen orthopedic, general and heart surgeons in the area began 30-day leaves of absence
Wednesday or planned to begin leaves in the next few days to protest medical malpractice costs.
They want the state to make it harder to file malpractice lawsuits, which they say would eventually lower their insurance premiums. They also want the state to seek help from insurance companies and other third parties to pay a larger share of their costs.
The state's emergency program will involve ambulance transfer and patient referral procedures, State Insurance and Retirement Services Director Tom Susman said.
''We know there's concern among area residents, and our top priority is to ensure the citizens of the northern panhandle get the medical care they need,'' Susman said.
Four patients, including two heart patients, were moved Thursday, raising the number in the two-day protest to seven.
The four affected hospitals also began reducing shifts of operating room nurses and other surgical support staff.
''It's definitely generating worries within our staff, both about their own financial needs and about the health of the community,'' said Howard Gamble, spokesman for Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling.
A surgeon taking part in a job action said doctors' pleas for help have been ignored by state officials.
''We have had many meetings with state legislators and past governors. We have asked for help in the past. It seems as if it has fallen on deaf ears,'' Dr. Greg Saracco said on CBS' ''Early Show.'' ''Physicians no longer want to come to work. Physicians are afraid to accept liability.''
State Insurance and Retirement Services Director Tom Susman has said Gov. Bob Wise will offer details of a new malpractice insurance plan in his State of the State address next week
Last-minute talks with state officials failed to stop the protest. A similar walkout in Pennsylvania was averted when Gov.-elect Ed Rendell promised to work for a solution
At least 18 of 19 surgeons at Wheeling Hospital are beginning 30-day leaves of absence, and 11 others have asked for leaves from Weirton Medical Center. Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale said surgeons there were taking leaves, but it was unclear how many.
All four hospitals are keeping emergency rooms open. But, with the exception of plastic surgeons, they have almost no emergency surgeons available, which will require most patients to be transferred to hospitals in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Morgantown.
Dr. Donald Hofreuter, Wheeling Hospital's chief executive officer, said he understands the doctors' frustration, but he also is concerned about patient care.
One Wheeling Hospital patient needing emergency surgery Wednesday morning was transferred 88 miles to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, and two heart patients were transferred to Pennsylvania hospitals, Hofreuter said.
On Thursday, Weirton Medical Center transferred two patients to a hospital in Steubenville, Ohio. Wheeling Hospital transferred two heart patients to Pittsburgh-area hospitals. The four required non-emergency surgery.
Wheeling Hospital temporarily reinstated one of its surgeons who had taken a leave of absence so the surgeon could help a patient who couldn't be transferred, Hofreuter said. He declined to give details.
Jan 2, '03
Lets get this straight:
2 dozen surgeons go on strike because they want to pay less expensive malpractice rates -- and the Gov suddenly unveils a new malpractice insurance plan for their state to appease them. Another handful of doctors threaten to strike in another state for the same reasons & their Gov immediately promises to do something about their issue to the appease them. But...
Hundreds (in some cases thousands) of nurses go on strike because they want safer staffing, safer pt loads, and safer hours, and instead of paying as much attention to the nurses & signing laws that address their concerns, Govs hand over medicare/medicaide dollars to the hospital to buy scabs and other strike busting efforts. AND they reject safe staffing legislation, reject ergonomic workplace legislation, reject bills that ban forced overtime & sign none of those into law.
2 dozen MDs go on strike (& for purely financial reasons), & it is supported by other doctors & the news. But...
Hundreds (in some cases thousands) of nurses go on strike for workplace improvements and safety issues which all impact on pt care, and they are called "unprofessional" (even by other nurses).
2 dozen surgeons go on strike and the hospital stops operations -with no plan to "import" surgeons to "fill" the empty postions left by those striking surgeons. But...
Hundreds (in some cases thousands) of nurses go on strike & the hospital ignores it by bringing in scabs from all over the country to replace them & stopping no services.
2 dozen surgeons go on strike and there is no agency recruiting other doctors to take their place, just as there are no other doctors hunting down a strike so they can "work it" and boost their usual salary. Other doctors are supporting the striking surgeons - not rushing in to help defeat their efforts. But....
Nurses go on strike and suddenly "travel" agencies come out of the woodwork recruiting other nurses to fill their empty spots.... and those other nurses fall all over each other to make sure they get one of those spots, not giving a damn how their action cuts down the effort of the striking nurses.
2 dozen doctors go on strike for the state government to pass a new law solely to help doctors pocketbooks. Hundreds and thousands of RNs go on strike just to get their employer to address the problems with their working conditions including safety & pt care. Which one is easier to do - pass a new state law at the state capitol or sit down at your facility's negotiating table?
Yet, how much shall we wager that these 2 dozen striking doctors will soon get the new law that they want but hundreds and thousands of nurses will still have to strike over & over & over again & jump thru hoops at their state capitols before safe staffing laws, mandatory ot bans, ergonomic workplace laws or anything else that we need are ever passed?
The difference is that the doctors believe they are in it together & act as such. Nurses dont.
Doctors use the power they have as a collective.
Nurses dont. In fact they fight it. We're facing the same problems but istead of working it together across the country, like doctors are for reduced malpractice rates, we're fighting with each other over who's better, who's right, North South ADN BSN This Union vs That Union vs Non-Union vs Union, ANA Non-ANA RN LPN, etc etc etc. In the meantime, we're all still living with the same problems. There are much more of us & our collective power could be greater than the MDs if we used our energy to do more than just b** & moan at each other.
Thats why 2 dozen striking MDs with the support of the rest of the MDs in this country & the threat of more doing the same is going to achieve exactly what they want. While we sit around & argue over whether or not its "professional".
Last edit by -jt on Jan 2, '03
Jan 2, '03
No its not just a few doctors. But it hasnt been even a fraction of the numbers of nurses who have gone on strike this past year alone. But while nurses issues have been brushed off along with the sriking nurses, everybody is sitting up & taking notice of the doctors protest. Last summer there was a national protest at hospitals & state capitols all across the country on the same day. The issue - malpractice insurance rates. It made all the news, photos were in all the papers. It wasnt just PA or Nevada. It was most states at the same time. Doctors that couldnt go to their capitol on that day held picket signs in front of their hospitals at noon. At one local hospital here, the newspaper did a big story about the doctors protest & printed photos of the 100 physicians who stood outside with their picket signs for that hour. But not too long before that, over 500 RNs were on strike for a few weeks for working conditions & pt care but it got barely a comment in that newspaper. So no, its not just a few doctors but compared to the numbers of nurses that have been forced to strike it is only a fraction.
But the point is they have gotten more than double the notice from the powers that be & they have gotten immediate responses with solutions from their states. They havent gotten their message out any clearer than nurses have. Its just that people who make the laws are paying attention & taking action to remedy the problem... just because its DOCTORS. Nurses taking the same action for even more serious issues get lip service & the brush off. And they even get looked down upon by some of their own peers.
How much is it going to cost to give doctors lower malpractice insurance rates & where is that money going to come from? Off whose backs? All we keep hearing is there is no money for safe staffing, no money to hire more staff & ban forced overtime, no money to make attractive workplace, salary & benefit improvements to recruit and retain staff, no money for ergonomic workplaces so we dont kill ourselves trying to lift pts, & that they cant pass state laws to do any of this because the hospitals have no money to be able to comply.
It took 10 yrs of RN protests about pt safety before one state finally passed their safe staffing law. And in one year of MD protests about high malpractice rates, 2 states have already come up with a plan for a new insurance law.
Last edit by -jt on Jan 2, '03
Jan 2, '03
<I don't understand why we cannot be one unified voice for nursing, either.>
'Cause nurses are too busy judging each other. They have a million complaints about each other. A million excuses why they wont add their voices. Just look at some of the posts on this website. If they put as much energy into getting involved in their states, contacting their legislators & taking an action to fix the problems as they do in blasting each other on this message board who knows how much further ahead we would be. I wonder how many nurses who have spent so much time composing posts to attack some of us for our opinions here ever spent as much time sending an educational email to their elected officials. With 2.7 million nurses out there only a pathetic fraction are actually doing something other than complaining.
The difference is that doctors are not fighting with each other over which of them is right or better. Theyre fighting together for the issue that affects all of them. And they have facilitated the belief that THEY are the ones who bring pts in to the hospital so THEY are the money makers.
No wonder theyre the ones being heard and getting an immediate response.
Until more direct-care nurses finally get up & get involved, & stop defeating each others efforts, they have no right to gripe about how no one is paying attention to the direct-care nurses needs.
Last edit by -jt on Jan 2, '03
Jan 2, '03
<Now how can we get NURSES to band together to tackle our issues?.... we need to collectively get together and LOBBY our legislators just like these physicians have been doing to ensure SAFE STAFFING, prevent MANDATORY OVERTIME and encourge RETENION of nurses in the workplace.>
I dont know. You can talk till youre blue in the face, show nurses statistics and data, pass on articles that prove nurses can and are making a difference & winning the fight - there are some states that have passed laws banning forced overtime & have passed laws for safe staffing (besides California) due to the actions of nurses in their states, but that still doesnt get the rest of them out of their seat to take similar action as those nurses.
Even in NY state - with so many pro-active RNs & so many nurses politically aware & involved, we have hundreds of thousands of RN licensed in this state. But at our state associations last Lobby Day only about 500 RNs showed up. That was impressive & productive - it resulted in a lot of support for the working conditions bills we want passed into laws. It advanced the agenda of the bedside nurse, & a major statewide press conference was conducted because of it - but can you imagine how much more effective it would have been if 200,000 RNs showed up at the state capitol that day?
The state nurses assoc set it all up, made all the arrangements, gave us seminar instruction on talking points & updated us on the issues & where they stood in the legislature, prepared educational legislative packages about the issues, including statsitics, studies and research results, for us to give to our legislators so they would know exactly what we needed & why, & paid for it all with our dues (cause thats what dues are for). And gave us CEUs for participating too - all nurses had to do, member or non-member, was come. Or if they couldnt come they could get the info off our state assoc website & use it to compose their own email to their legislator. Can you imagine if the state legislators had received 200,000 letters & emails on the issues?
How do we get them to band together? I dont know. It cant be made more simple than a quick click of the mouse, but still they dont get involved. Im all out of ideas and Im tired of hearing nurses complaints as they sit back & do nothing to help themselves.
Last edit by -jt on Jan 2, '03
Jan 2, '03
JT, excellent post! I concur with all your statements. I too, have been doing whatever I can to rally for our profession. Recently, I have been talking with a retired senator who is involved with Special Olympics. Whenever I attend a function, we do talk/discuss about many current events...and one topic that is always discussed is the nursing shortage.
Last edit by funnygirl_rn on Jan 3, '03