Shortage of On Call Orthopaedic Doctors

June 20, 2007

Reported by Laila Morcos

If you've ever broken a bone and had to go to the emergency room it's quite likely it either took a long time for you to see an orthopaedic surgeon or you had to be sent out of town to get specialist care.

KPLC's Laila Morcos sat down with a local orthopaedic surgeon to find out why this happens to patients in southwest Louisiana.

KPLC has received numerous emails throughout the years from people who've broken bones and have been unable to receive emergency care from an orthopaedic specialist.

The reason....a shortage of man power.

Local orthopaedic surgeon John Noble is one of only a few specialists that take on-call.

Noble: "we have four hospitals in the area and we have about six physicians that take on call and it becomes unbearable."

It creates a hardship for trauma patients and the other on-call surgeons.   But there's more than six orthopaedic surgeons in the area.   However, not all work on call.

Noble: "We have a seniority rule in two of the hospitals and as a consequence, the doctors who are over 55 are excused from trauma call."

Physicians over age 55 at Christus St. Patrick hospital and Lake Charles Memorial Hospital don't work on-call. The Christus board is working on changing the age limit making it higher.

Noble: "We've done research in our region and have found there are no other hospitals adjacent to us with the same rule."

Sometimes patients may be transferred out of town. A number of physicians have tried to implement a city-wide call rotation but have been unsuccessful.

So what's the solution?

Noble: "The solution is to recruit more doctors."

It's a difficult thing to do but Dr. Noble says he's actively working to bring more orthopaedic specialists to the area.

Nationwide, there is a problem with physician shortages to handle trauma cases in a number of different specialties. In the future, Dr. Noble says a trauma system may be the answer to handle any and all emergency patients.