Changes in the Cost and Management of Emergency Department On-Call Coverage: Evidence From a Longitudinal Statewide Survey

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Study objective: We measure changes in the prevalence and magnitude of stipends and other payments for taking emergency call during a 2-year period for hospitals in Oregon and evaluate the ways in which hospitals are limiting services and assessing policy options. Methods: This was a longitudinal, standardized, e-mail-based survey of chief executive officers from all hospitals with emergency departments (EDs) in Oregon (N=56). The first wave was conducted in the summer of 2005; a follow-up survey was conducted in summer 2006. Hospitals reported on-call payments made to 8 selected specialties. Results: Among 56 Oregon hospitals with EDs, 43 responded to our survey in both 2005 and 2006, representing a 77% response rate. Among 54 specialties receiving stipends in 2006, the average stipend was $18,324. Total annual stipend payments increased by 84%, from an average of $227,000 per hospital in 2005 to $487,000 per hospital in 2006. In Oregon, between 2004 and 2006, 67% of hospitals lost the ability to provide coverage for at least 1 specialty on a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week basis. Approximately half of hospitals (49%) manage this lack of coverage by transferring patients to other hospitals on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis. Conclusion: The cost of maintaining on-call coverage is increasing in Oregon, raising concerns about hospital financing and a degradation of the emergency services. There has not been a systematic response to on-call shortages, with patient transfers primarily managed in an ad hoc, case-by-case basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-642.e1
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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