George Gershwin wrote the lyrics “Summertime and the livin’ is easy” in 1934 for the opera “Porgy and Bess.” But summer time generally means extended periods of time spent outdoors which can present ample opportunities to sustain injuries (or hurt others). It is not surprising that Emergency Room visits spike during the summer months. From the first signs of the days getting longer until school is back in session visits to the ER increase by 15 to 27 percent.1 So while the livin’ should be easy, it brings new meaning to the sentiment of enjoying careless summer days when they’re spent in an emergency room.
Hospitals ready for this potential influx of patients by increasing staff, but often it is done through the more flexible route of “on call.” Staff who are on call are paid a flat rate per hour to be available if called to come into work. CMS recognizes the need to have physicians available and in limited circumstances, hospitals can claim this on-call time as allowable expense on the Medicare cost report.
Time studies are needed to support Emergency Physicians Availability and On-Call Time (Pub. 15-1, §Section 2109).
Further guidance can be found on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website:
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1 ER Visits Peak during the Summer Months, By James Baker, MD, Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park, California