The University of Mississippi Medical
Center will soon have only two surgeons in it's trauma unit, and
that could make for a critical shortage until positions can be
Six positions are budgeted for the 2007-08 year - which begins
July 1 - but long hours and low pay have made them difficult to
fill, UMC officials say.
Nursing shortages and residents' restricted hours coupled with
the trauma surgeon shortages have overloaded physicians and led the
hospital to close several critical-care beds.
So far patients have not been diverted to other hospitals, said
Dr. James Hughes, UMC's interim chairman of the department of
Instead, general surgeons and other physicians have helped pick
up the workload.
"I have been absolutely impressed with the stepping up to the
plate I've seen here," Hughes said. "Of course, it's caused
stress for all our surgeons, but I feel that next year we will be
able to fill those spots."
In the 2006-07 fiscal year, which ends Saturday, there were five
budgeted trauma positions, according to records The Clarion-Ledger
received through a public records request.
Three technically were filled, but one surgeon has been on
military leave since August 2005 and another, who went on personal
leave May 9, is ending her employment with UMC on Saturday,
according to a www.clarion-ledger.com article.
As a result, one trauma surgeon worked the center for most of
On July 2, Dr. John Porter will join the faculty as chief of the
Division of Trauma and Critical Care.
While Porter's arrival technically means half of UMC's trauma
slots are filled, one of the three surgeons still is likely to be
on military leave.
"We're actively recruiting for the positions," Hughes said.
For Mississippi, the health of UMC's trauma center is especially
important, as it is the only Level 1 facility in the state. A Level
1 facility has research and academic medical centers with
specialists present 24 hours a day.
The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis, which
shares in state funding because it serves many north
Mississippians, is the next closest.
Across the country, trauma centers are sharing UMC's plight
though. In 2006, about 40 percent of the trauma fellowships at
universities were vacant, said Connie Potter, executive director of
the National Foundation of Trauma Care.
"Why? They don't make any money. They have lousy hours. Trauma
is a nocturnal, weekend disease, and now work is all about
lifestyle," Potter said. "People want a well-balanced life, and I
don't blame them."
On average a trauma surgeon will make about $180,000 a year, she
said, whereas a general elective surgeon may make twice that
amount. A high percentage of uncompensated care coming through
trauma centers is partially to blame for the lower salaries.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,