ER physicians at 3 Pennsylvania hospitals work weeks without pay

At the end of October, Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare ended its contract with the staffing firm that employed the physicians who worked in the emergency rooms at its three Pennsylvania hospitals. Last week, the staffing firm failed to pay the ER physicians, according to The Philadelphia Tribune.

Here are six things to know:

1. Prime ended its contract with Brentwood, Tenn.-based Legacy Physician Partners at the end of October. Legacy employed the ER physicians at Prime's three Pennsylvania hospitals: Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol, Roxborough Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia, and Suburban Community Hospital in East Norriton.

2. In October, Lower Bucks Hospital's medical director sent an email to physicians saying Legacy had not paid him in September. However, he assured physicians that Prime, Legacy and Uniondale, N.Y.-based Progressive Emergency Physicians, the staffing agency that took over for Legacy, were working on a payment plan. The physicians kept showing up for their shifts, according to the report.

3. On Nov. 15, Legacy failed to pay physicians at the three hospitals for the time they had worked. Although Progressive Emergency Physicians agreed to cover the physicians' October wages if they entered a long-term contract with PEP, some of the physicians didn't like the contract terms and refused to sign.

4. Physicians who chose not to sign with PEP are absorbing the losses. Gerald O'Malley, DO, who worked in Lower Bucks Hospital's ER until recently, estimates he is owed $20,000.

5. In an email to Becker's, Prime said the ERs remain open with all shifts fully staffed, and Prime has met all of its obligations, including payment, with Legacy and Progressive Emergency Physicians.

"Like most hospitals, we contract with established medical groups to provide 24-hour coverage of our ERs. The contract with Legacy for our emergency room coverage was terminated due to our understanding that Legacy was not financially able to continue full coverage of our ERs," Prime said. "Prime Healthcare worked quickly to onboard Progressive Emergency Physicians as the new medical group to ensure that emergency care was always available to the community, and we have done everything within our power to meet physician needs. Progressive Emergency Physicians began providing care in our ERs on November 13."

6. Legacy didn't respond to requests for comment, and the company's website no longer exists.

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