Saturday, January 11, 2003

Ky. hospital courts W.Va. surgeons

The Associated Press

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - An eastern Kentucky hospital is trying to capitalize on West Virginia's medical malpractice insurance woes by attempting to lure physicians across the state line.

Representatives from Pikeville Methodist Hospital have been courting surgeons in Wheeling, W.Va., who walked off their jobs because of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance.

"It's no secret that we've been actively recruiting surgeons," Penny Stratton, a recruiter for the Pikeville hospital, told WYMT-TV in Hazard.

"We are looking for physicians which are going to take us to that next level."

WYMT reported that some of the doctors have visited Pikeville, but none has committed to moving. Dr. Srihari R. Malempati, chief medical officer at Pikeville Methodist, said the hospital wants to build its roster of doctors so eastern Kentucky residents don't have to travel to bigger cities for medical care.

The walkout by surgeons over the high cost of medical malpractice insurance eased in Wheeling, W.Va., Friday but threatened to spread elsewhere as doctors in Elkins and Martinsburg, W.Va., planned to take leaves of absences.

Two surgeons at Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins said they would stop performing surgeries beginning Monday. Nine surgeons at Martinsburg's City Hospital said they would stop Feb. 1.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise has proposed legislation that targets high insurance premiums with $20 million in credits, while setting damage award caps and other malpractice lawsuit limits.

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