Physician leaders are tapping a variety of resources to ready their organizations should any of the nation's 5,740 physicians in the military reserves be called to active duty.
"It is well documented that in post-Gulf War time, many physicians lost their practices," says David Gans, director for practice management resources at the Medical Group Management Association. Physician executives also need to plan for the potential loss of other key support staffers, says Gans, a retired Army reserves colonel.
Gans says medical group leaders should explore options to ease the financial burden caused by absent staffers and reduced productivity. One option is the military reservist economic injury disaster loan program with the Small Business Administration. It helps eligible small businesses meet operating expenses if an essential employee is called up.
A mobilized Army reservist typically is called for up to 270 days, says Major Jon Dahms. Understanding that doctors may have more to sacrifice in terms of pay reduction and patient coverage, the Army tries to limit them to six months of active duty.
CompHealth, a physician recruiting and staffing company based in Salt Lake City, is building a national database of doctors willing to work locum tenens in the event of a war or other crisis. The program has enrolled 326 doctors from various specialties, the company says.
"For a hospital that has a safety-net mission--that needs to stay open and provide services--(this program) will make it easier," says psychiatrist J. Allen Miller, M.D., assistant administrator for medical staff and quality affairs at Natividad Medical Center, a 163-bed public hospital in Salinas, Calif. "The other contingency we have would be to reach out to community physicians, but they have busy practices too."