Reno Hospital, Orthopedic Doctors at Odds over Contract

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A panel of orthopedic trauma specialists, at odds with Washoe Medical Center over a new contract, question the hospital's ability to provide emergency care for patients with severe bone injuries.

But hospital administrators said other orthopedic physicians from the community are qualified and on call to treat emergency room patients.

The hospital has been operating without its panel of orthopedic trauma doctors since July 1.

"The Orthopedic Trauma Panel provided a valuable service to the community," said Dr. Thomas M. Fyda, a Reno orthopedist who served on the panel.

"Without the panel in place, Washoe is not able to provide the high level of specialized care on a consistent basis that we've become accustomed to in this community," he said.

Hospital officials disagree.

"The care of orthopedic trauma patients now reverts to the emergency orthopedist on call," said Dr. Byron Gomez, chief of trauma services. "The emergency department continues to be staffed 24-7 with fully trained orthopedic surgeons."

Panel doctors volunteered to serve as the hospital's bone trauma specialists and were paid above the standard on-call rate for doctors, hospital officials said.

When the panel's contract expired in June, hospital officials said they offered members a pay increase, but the doctors wanted more money.

"The panel was set up as an additional accommodation for the physicians," said Dennis Pettigrew, WMC chief financial officer, "not because there were any problems with orthopedic care."

Both sides said they're willing to continue negotiations, but no talks were scheduled.