November 19, 2007, 3:43 pm
At 81, a Country Doc Works Weekends in the ER — For Free
Posted by Jacob Goldstein
If you get sick in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, there’s a good chance you’ll meet Hiram Ward, age 81. He’s been practicing medicine in Murfreesboro (pop: 1,678) since 1953, and lately he’s been spending his nights and weekends taking calls at the emergency room there.
Ward went back to work in the ER at the start of this year because the town’s 32-bed hospital couldn’t find anybody else to take the job, and couldn’t afford to pay them.
For the first few months of the year, Ward was the only doctor covering the ER, which he says sees about 20 patients a day. Now he splits the job with one other doctor, and also works a few days a week (unpaid) at a local clinic.
The Health Blog recently spoke with Ward after we heard he’d won an annual award given by Staff Care, a physician staffing firm, to country doctors. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Do you find it difficult to work such long hours at your age?
I’ve worked more or less like this all my life. When I started in this county, it was in 1953 and there was only one other full-time doctor. After I’d been here three months he died of a heart attack and that left me covering the whole county. I learned to work 24/7.
How long do you plan to keep this up?
As soon as I get somebody that will do it, I’m gone. I didn’t want to go to work; I did it to keep the hospital open. The main disadvantage of this hospital closing would be the urgent people, like the people having a heart attack, where you can stabilize them and get them to a bigger hospital.
How has medicine changed since you started practicing?
An office call was two dollars. I’d go to your house for three dollars. When we found out Medicare was fixing to start, everybody went to five dollars immediately, because we figured they wouldn’t let us raise it anymore. The family doctor covered everything.
[Younger doctors] are treating diseases, not people. They don’t talk to a person and ask them what’s the matter. If you just listen to a fellow for a while, he’ll tell you what’s the matter.
As part of the award, the staffing company will pay for a doctor to fill in for you for two weeks. Will you take a vacation?
Probably not, because I don’t think he can cover what I can.
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My dad is an 80 year old doctor who works (on average) half-time, but at an occupational health clinic, and he has no plans to stop. He was a small town doctor for about 20 years, but got bored and went into aerospace medicine, and then gradually into occupational medicine. He liked doing everything (including some fairly major surgery) when he was a GP, but he feels more comfortable sticking to his area of expertise now. He also occasionally complains about the tendency of younger doctors to treat the lab work instead of the patient.
Comment by hardlyb - November 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm
a super american doctor
Comment by joe metzger2 - November 19, 2007 at 6:02 pm
He is a real hero… not like some of those blood-sucking doctors who cant tell the difference between their patients and a donkey’s ass that you see elsewhere… just interested in making money.
Comment by Anu - November 19, 2007 at 6:20 pm
Wish we had more doctors that treated the patient and not the tests….oh wait thats the nature of the american governemtn and their regulations. They set up rules and regs in the hopes of saving money, but in retrospect they end of spending more money due to their extreme inefficieny to get things done in a timely manner.
Comment by doug - November 19, 2007 at 7:55 pm
We wouldn’t have doctor shortage if we can let in foreign doctors that don’t require extra licensing & training. AMA monopoly restricts number of medical schools and residencies. People can’t get to med school even if they are willing to pay 40K per year. If US is happy with foreign engineers, why not doctors?
Comment by Mani - November 19, 2007 at 8:25 pm
If you need help i will come,
Comment by firstname.lastname@example.org - November 19, 2007 at 8:54 pm
Response to Anu. Blame it on the insurance companies not on doctors. 35% of every dollar goes towards administrative expenses. Insurance companies are profit making machines for share holders to provide dividends or profits. Unless you remove the profit equation from health care expect health care to get more worst. The average pay for a doctor nowadays is not more than software engineer with 5 years experience. No profession comes close to the amount of traning and dedication that is required to become a physician.
Comment by Tony - November 19, 2007 at 9:11 pm
Response to Tony: Blah, Blah, Blah…I do not cry for the average pay for a doctor. They are the quickest profession to payoff their school debt. They are partially responsible for the way health care is today and should of seen it coming. They were to busy polishing their Mercedes.
作者:admin@医学,生命科学 2011-05-28 05:14