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Surgeon Shortage Pushes Hospitals to Hire Temps – Scalpel Services

Posted Jan 14 2009 6:33pm

Scary that the number of general surgeons per capita has declined 25%.  The physicians that work from a staffing agency though get additional lodging and other accommodations as well.  This costs the hospital more money as well, but with a lack of general surgeons, there’s not a whole lot of choice.  Robotic surgery will later emerge in handling a portion perhaps, but not all surgeries by any means can be done robotically. image

“For a complex hemorrhoid removal, a general surgeon got $390 in 2008, compared with $574 in 1997. Private insurers followed suit.”

I spoke a while back to a pharmacist who was doing the same thing, for basically the same reason, economics, who closed down his independent pharmacy and took a job as a temp pharmacist and works and travels at the stores and locations of his choice, with Wal-Mart being one of the largest chains where he fills in for vacations and sick leave time.  He stated they all try to hire him full time, but he would take a big loss in pay that way. 

In the meantime, retail sales are getting worse with retailers going out of business for the pharmacy end of things and hospitals are going bankrupt or on the verge of insolvency and cutting back, yet the general surgeon can’t make ends meet by keeping a practice open either, so the costs escalate, and compensation rates might have a lot to do with all of this.   BD 

When someone doubles over from stomach pain, the general surgeon is the one who performs an appendectomy. Gallstones? The general surgeon removes the gallbladder. Breast and colon tumors and hernias are also matters for the surgeon's scalpel.

Now the economic and cultural forces reshaping U.S. medicine are prompting an exodus from this once venerable field, creating a growing market for temporary surgeons-for-hire.

So the surgeons shuttered their practice, and Dr. Peppers, 42 years old, hit the road. Her typical month might now include a weekend in Springfield, Ore., removing ruptured spleens or repairing obstructed bowels, followed by two weeks at a rural Kentucky or New Hampshire hospital. Though she misses her husband, she earns double her old salary and has paid off a big chunk of her medical-school debt. "I'd much prefer to be in my hospital in my little town," says Dr. Peppers, who is now licensed in five states."But I don't see how that's possible."

Staffing agencies estimate that at least 1 in 20 of America's 17,000 general surgeons now work on a temporary basis some or all of the time. Full-time temporary surgeons can earn $250,000 or more a year, in some cases nearly twice as much as in private practice. That's largely because they don't have to pay overhead costs anymore.

Surgeon Shortage Pushes Hospitals to Hire Temps - WSJ.com

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