Fox 13 Tampa Bay recently investigated a suspicious alleged bonus system in place at Brooksville Regional Hospital. According to the allegations, 47 year-old Dave Roberts arrived at the ER after injuring his back and was in obvious pain, was unable to walk, and had lost control of his bladder. The ER doctor chose only to administer two shots (presumably for pain) and ordered an X-ray. Roberts was then sent home. Three days later (the next business day), Mr. Roberts went to a specialist who immediately recognized the severity of the spinal injury and emergency surgery was performed. Unfortunately, Mr. Roberts suffered severe, permanent injury, which according to the lawsuit, was a direct result of Brooksville Regional’s hurry to get Roberts out the door.
It has been uncovered that Brooksville Regional gave a financial incentive to ER physicians for moving patients quickly through the ER. Allegations suggest that ER doctors were offered a quarterly bonus if the average length of stay for a patient in the ER was less than two hours. The hospital is likely using these incentives to decrease the waiting times of patients in the ER (a desire fueled in part because ER wait time is a hot advertising trend) – which by itself is a good intention. Unfortunately some hospitals, such as Brooksville Regional, appear to have decided to rush ER visits instead of adequately staffing their emergency room department.
This bonus system clearly causes a conflict of interest between the doctor’s professional duty of care and the Hospital’s interest in profit and reputation. Bonuses are common in the industry, but a bonus which directly contradicts the ability for a healthcare professional to provide adequate care is unacceptable. And for patients like Dave Roberts, it can ruin lives.