The American Medical Association has severed ties with Physicians for Responsible Negotiation, the in-house labor union it created in 1999, and has forgiven the group's accumulated debt. The AMA spent at least $3.6 million on the ill-fated venture, which organized just 38 physicians in four years, all in Detroit -- a cost of about $95,000 per doctor. The union is expected to forge an affiliation with the Service Employees International Union, which oversees two other physician groups: the 12,000-member Committee of Interns & Residents and the 5,000-member Doctors Council. Negotiations to absorb the union, with its existing board, have only a few minor details to resolve, said Mark Levy, executive director of the interns and residents union.
The AMA abandoned the union with little public comment, although it once considered it a potentially lucrative venture. The association posted a cursory statement on its Web site March 10 from Michael Maves, the organization's executive vice president and chief executive officer, which said: "Recently, the AMA and PRN mutually agreed that PRN should operate as an entirely independent organization with no connection to the AMA." The AMA's annual report, released earlier this week, makes no mention of PRN or its accumulated debt. -- by Michael Romano