OU closes emergency medicine program

Thursday, September 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- University of Oklahoma officials voted Wednesday to shut down its Department of Emergency Medicine at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.

Dr. Joseph Ferretti, the senior vice president and provost of the center, said the program has had marginal success since it was established in 1981 as the Emergency Medicine Residency Program.

But Dr. Dave McCarty, who taught emergency medicine at OU, said Ferretti and Dr. Jerry Vannatta, the dean of the OU College of Medicine, had no confidence in emergency medicine and did not fund the program properly.

"Dr. Vannatta doesn't believe in emergency medical training as a legitimate discipline," said McCarty, who is one of five OU medical faculty members who will lose their jobs because of the program's closing.

Vannatta pledged to re-establish an emergency medicine program in the future.

OU emergency medicine faculty members learned in 1998 that the program would lose its accreditation in June 2000 after being on probationary accreditation between 1993 and 1997.

"We gave emergency medical faculty a chance to make a go of it and turn it around, and they didn't respond," said Ferretti, who recommended in March that the program be closed.

Ferretti said emergency rooms staffed by OU interns at the health sciences complex routinely had patients waiting three hours for treatment. He said the department struggled with properly billing clients and once went an entire year without billing clients.

"They left about $1 million on the table that was clearly collectable from these clients," he said.

Ferretti said OU has privatized its emergency room medical training program at University Hospitals. The privatized program will allow practice by interns, so medical students interested in emergency room medicine can still receive training in Oklahoma City.

Privatization has improved services and patients are now seen within 30 minutes, Ferretti said. He said the privatized program would match or exceed the six to eight emergency room doctors produced each year by the discontinued program.

McCarty said OU is spending $3 million on privatization but just half that much on the emergency medicine program.

"If they would put the money into this program that they are putting into privatization, then you'd have a stronger program,"

he said.

Emergency medicine faculty members who lose their jobs will remain on the payroll until June 2001 because of guidelines for discontinuing the emergency medicine department, Ferretti said.

All OU interns in the emergency medicine residency programs will complete their degrees at other universities, he said.