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Medical Specialists Who Won't Take Calls

January 02, 2002

Re " 'On Call' but Not Replying," Dec. 29: I thought doctors had a creed they espoused upon graduating from medical school, to provide care to their fellow man when needed, and that they entered the profession to provide a service that only "the best of the best" were deemed qualified to perform. Instead, greed and arrogance have replaced these very principles.

Shame on those doctors who failed to answer the call because they were tired or too busy or, worse yet, might not get paid because some indigent patient may have, say, been run over by a drunk driver or injured in some other way out of his or her control. How sad that emergency room physicians and nurses have had to beg for the services of these pompous, self-serving individuals who claim to be caregivers. What we need is an anonymous hotline for health care professionals who wish to turn in these arrogant scofflaws who routinely thumb their noses at the anti-dumping statute because they know their peers will not report them out of fear of retribution.

Mike Aguilar

Costa Mesa

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Your article points out the basic reasons why many specialists are not willing to take emergency calls, and all of them point to not being paid for services, with an honorable mention for liability and never being so much as thanked. There is a basic sense of entitlement the public has. Members of the public demand high-tech, highly trained individuals to take care of them, but they want it free. The insurance companies are quick to chastise physicians for not responding, but they certainly don't want to come up with the funds to guarantee their payment. Doctors, having been left unpaid for tens of thousands of dollars or more for services to participants in HMOs, have been taught not to participate in these programs--not for not being paid enough but for not being paid at all.

Recently, I had a blocked kitchen drain. Before the plumber left, he demanded $100 payment for about 10 minutes of work. How much is it worth to have a few severed fingers saved or to repair multiple dog bites to the face? Truthfully, it's tough to get compensated a couple of hundred dollars from the insurance companies. The public wants us there and demands that we be there but is not willing to pay us. For the plumber the checkbook is in hand.

Jerome D. Vener MD

West Hills

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I'm a police officer and I'm feeling undercompensated and underappreciated and wonder why I should bother with the onerous inconvenience of calls for service from doctors when they call at 3 a.m. for help when their safety is under attack. I think I will sleep in until I know for sure if a doctor can pay or is willing to pay my meager wages for putting my life on the line for a (doctor) stranger.

Leonard Yniguez

San Fernando

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My father, Bearl L. Ginsburg, was clearly an old-fashioned physician: He worked on his rare days off, canceled vacations for the benefit of his patients' schedules and donated his time and skills when he was asked or felt duty-bound to do so. He never had a professional corporation (because he simply paid the personal taxes he owed and because the thought of doctors organizing their business lives to acquire wealth made him morally queasy). When I closed his estate I found several cabinets of files for patients whom he never charged.

David R. Ginsburg

Santa Monica

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